We all wear masks. We instinctively alter our behavior when we believe that we’re being watched in order to match how we believe other people expect us to behave. This phenomenon is seen most clearly in children who are always seeking to please their parents. The problem with behavior modification is that it can stifle out what we truly want to express for the sake of being more socially palatable.
How many times have you wanted to voice support for someone who was being marginalize in a meeting, but you remained silent? How many times have you wanted to express your emotions transparently with your teenage children, but refrained from doing so because you didn’t want it to be awkward? When you were growing up, do you remember when you wanted to stop being affectionate with your parents in public?
In the long term, systemically suppressing our true emotions and feelings can lead to permanent behavior modifications. Ceasing to be affectionate with your children in the short term can lead to a lifelong change in relational boundaries. Not standing up for someone being gossiped about can lead to you joining in. Not being transparent with your wife can lead to a long term freeze in marital growth.
We have to move past this idea that our emotions are bad and that we should adjust them in order to make ourselves more acceptable to others. The fact is, while we may think that others will like us more if we put up a false front, the opposite is true. Look at our political system. There’s so much phoniness that when someone comes along and is open, transparent, and truly themselves, it’s like a breath of fresh air. We respect people who admit when they’re wrong, who share how they really feel without the need to consult a poll first, and who act as the person who they are, not the person that they think that we want them to be.
You are a unique person with something great to offer the world. If you assimilate and are just like everyone else, we lose out on that chance to know you. Be the person you are and share that gift of self with the world. If you remain true to who you are, and I do the same, we can make a real dent in the universe.