Many of us spend more time hiding or masking our true feelings than we realise. This habit of masking or presenting a “front” that we believe is the acceptable version of ourselves can lead to reduced well-being, physical illness, anxiety, depression, and other signs of poor mental health.
Not only that, but it leads to poor communication as a leader and a team member. More widely, masking at work leads to toxic cultures where people feel they cannot be truly themselves and business growth is blocked.
Research tells us that between 50-80% of employees feel they need to fake a good attitude at work, to pretend, to act, and to put on a show. This pretence depletes energy, increases burnout, and makes it far more likely people will leave their job.
However, if we can identify the feelings under the mask and acknowledge them, these emotions will have incredibly useful and practical information for us. Recognising our emotions and being honest about them can help us understand what we need and how we can improve our relationships with others. For example, recognising that we are angry can often tell us our values have been crossed, or we need to say “no” to someone or something. And recognising that we are feeling rage is hugely useful – the human brain is hard-wired to move to rage when connection has been unable to happen. So, recognising our rage rather than masking our rage actually tells us we are in need of a relationship.
Our emotions are messengers. When we stop masking and pretending – those feelings have a wealth of wisdom to offer us as leaders, team-members, and as human beings.
People frequently underestimate the effectiveness of having an honest conversation—especially in the workplace, where employees can often feel like their coworkers or even managers are out to get them. This can, and most often will, disrupt the effective growth of a company. With everyone guarding their feelings and trying to strategically play their cards, there is an infinite number of things that could go wrong.
The bottom line is that we need to stop hiding and start being honest about our feelings. This is not to say that we should express every emotion we feel, but rather that we need to recognise and acknowledge them. By doing so, we can improve our relationships with others, boost our well-being, and help create healthier workplace cultures.
So, let’s stop hiding and start being authentic.