Here’s a quick quiz for you. Answer honestly. Do you feel:
- Like you are constantly hiding behind a mask?
- Worried that others will not like you?
- That if you say no, you are a bad person and will be letting everyone down?
- Trapped in a life that does not seem to be your own?
- Like you are always comparing yourself to others, with them on top and you on the bottom?
- As if you’re finding yourself not good enough, no matter how hard you try?
- Afraid that if your boss, co-workers, spouse or children found out “X” about you, they would never look at you in the same way again?
If you have answered yes to any of these questions, then the likely truth is that you are living a lie.
You are not the only one. It is an easy trap to fall into and can be a deep and difficult one to climb out of. But the effort can be well worth it if the result is a happier, healthier you.
Reasons Why We Could Be Living a Lie
It seems as if almost from the moment we are born, we have a certain role in the family with a certain set of expectations, both spoken and unspoken. Our family and the wider world is telling us who we are supposed to be rather than allow us to express who we really are. Our parents want us to be happy, of course, but we just might not have within us what it takes to be a doctor or lawyer, get accepted to their prestigious alma mater, or follow in their career footsteps.
On the other hand, our parents might have low expectations for us; maybe there’s never been a college graduate in the family, or they did just fine working in a hardware store all their lives and that should be enough for you too.
We get a range of messages about how we are supposed to do, think, and be. Children should be seen and not heard; we must never waste food; we should always clean our plates. Over time, these habits become second nature to us. However, they are not necessarily healthy or helpful if they lead to, for example, being terrified of speaking in public or being vastly overweight.
When we go to school, we might have a teacher who is never satisfied no matter how hard we try. Or we might be told we are not good at X and so we should not even bother to try. We might be bullied over the way we look, dress, speak, or even for being too smart or too stupid at school. Rather than get encouragement or support from the adults who influence our lives, we are told to ‘man up’ or be more ‘ladylike.’
There are now more opportunities for both men and women to defy traditional expectations, but the truth is that we often internalize various unhelpful attitudes and actions as normal and therefore judge ourselves as abnormal or less than perfect if we wish to live our lives differently.
The peer pressure and parental pressure can soon result in us constructing a mask of the ‘perfect’ child, sibling, spouse and so on. As the pressure builds from outside to conform, your own authentic self begins to feel trapped and miserable, like a caged tiger the zoo pacing back and forth, longing to be free.
If you have been living a lie in order to please others, you owe it to yourself to start taking action to live a more authentic life in which your true self can shine through.
Here and on LinkedIn I will be taking a closer look at how we can be more authentic and true to ourselves.