We do a lot of hiding in American culture. Makeup, for example. Sometimes it’s just for fun but often (whether we realize it or not) it’s a real attempt to hide imperfections we don’t want others to judge. No one bats an eye anymore about someone coloring the gray away. Implants, botox, liposuction, veneers, and various anatomical lifts become more acceptable every year. We hide in other ways to escape judgment, like when we hold back our jokes, decline to share an idea, or fail to stand up for what we believe in.
When we’re afraid to show our true self it’s because we believe it would be terrible if someone saw the real us and decided they didn’t like it. So we cover up and know deep down that if they don’t like what they see it’s not that bad since it’s not the real us they’re rejecting. Plus, if they don’t like this better, hand-crafted version of us then thank goodness they didn’t see the real thing! The problem comes when we’re successful – when people see our façade and like it. We know we’ve sold them a fake so we live with the fear of being found out. We all have a desperate need to belong so we maintain the front and keep hiding. Paradoxically, we hide to belong. But:
“True belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect self to the world. Our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance… (in my research) fitting in emerged as the primary barrier to cultivating real belonging.” – Brené Brown, The Power of Vulnerability