People often prefer to believe that it’s possible to hide pieces of ourselves that we don’t want people to see, often exaggerating certain qualities in order to conceal others:
Some may try to act in an overly nice manner in order to avoid being seen with anger or hostility; some may try to speak with perfect grammar and vocabulary, so they aren’t seen as uneducated or immature; some may act more aggressively and tough in order to hide perceived weaknesses, such as caring, empathic, and loving qualities; some may be overly accommodating in order to cover up tendencies toward rigidity; some may try to appear more “businesslike” in an attempt to conceal a less organized and less adult version of themselves; some may show excessive happiness and heightened energy level while trying to prevent people from seeing internal feelings of sadness and emptiness; etc.
We all have sides of ourselves that we want people to see more than others, and we do our best to consciously put these out there so people will have the impression of us that we want them to have. Consider it our desired image.
However, what people don’t often realize is that what we intend to cover up becomes easily visible to people in other ways. Whether it’s in body language, undertones in speaking, general opinions, responses to conversations or certain questions, choices we make in life, how we dress, how we receive communication, etc., etc., we’re much more visible to people than we all want to believe.
Unfortunately, knowing this information is generally not enough to help people let go in social situations, or even let go more easily in a relationship. This means that even with knowing that others can easily detect parts of us we don’t want to show, that we’re still hiding from something.
When it comes down to it, what we want to hide from other people is something that we fear to face in ourselves. Whether it’s the fear of having “flaws” or whether it’s fear of facing parts of ourselves that we find unpleasant or daunting or otherwise, the image that we want others to see of us is really the way we actually want to see ourselves. In doing so, we attempt to hide the other parts of ourselves from others in order to remain in denial of these parts of ourselves.
This is often at the core of social anxiety for people. We try so hard to push qualities of ourselves that we find shameful to the side and cover them up, that we end up revealing these parts in other ways.
The less we face these parts of ourselves, the more they can hurt us, especially when it happens on extremes — Social anxiety for example, when people bottle anger for a period of time, cover the anger with positive emotion, and then the anger explodes causing rifts and ruptures in relationships.
What’s the takeaway here?
Learning about ourselves and facing all the parts of ourselves, especially those that we strive not to see, is the key to integrating with ourselves, as well as connecting with other people. The less fluidity within ourselves to go in and out of our emotional spaces, the more likely ruptures will be caused in our relationships when blocked avenues explode, in their own ways.
Facing ourselves and integrating with ourselves will open the door to more connection, comfortable exchanges, and less anxiety in all types of relationships. Social anxiety generally stems from the fear of being seen by others — the fear that our masks won’t cover the component we wish not to be seen. If we can get to know these parts of ourselves we wish to hide, rather than fighting to disown them (a futile battle), it can liberate us.
In the end, people see us. We’re only hiding from ourselves.