Have you ever felt like you had to be fake to fit in? Or that other people are phony in their representations of themselves?
It is discouraging to think that you have to change yourself in order to be accepted by other people. Why can’t they just like you the way that you are?
The good news is, having the ability to appease others while remaining true to yourself does not have to be mutually exclusive. You can do both.
I want to define the phrase I am using here: ‘masks vs filters’.
In general, most of us know what a mask is. It is something that typically covers our face and it’s purpose is to hide our true identity. Behind a mask, no one knows what you really look like, how you are really reacting, or what you really think.
Many of us also know what a filter is. If you use Instagram, Snapchat, or Photoshop (to name a few apps) then you should be familiar with the idea of filter. Filters are used to add to or highlight pictures; to draw people’s focus to a specific part of a picture. The overall picture itself is still there and recognizable; the change is just for the benefit of drawing people’s attention to a specific thing.
If you ever feel like you have to be fake to fit in, you are probably metaphorically hiding your true self behind a mask. While there may be certain situations where this is beneficial or even fun for a short while, over time it is not sustainable and can cause a lot of problems. You should typically strive to be yourself. The caveat to that comment is that while it is important to be yourself, it is also generally beneficial to be your BEST self.
What does this mean in the real world?
Metaphorically, let’s say that you love pizza and you hate spaghetti.
One day, you meet someone who wants you to join a spaghetti club. You really like spending time with them and want to make them happy. What can you do? Let’s look at some possibilities below.
Option 1) You tell the person you think that people who like spaghetti are stupid.
You tell them everything that you hate about spaghetti, possibly hoping that they will realize that they were wrong for liking spaghetti. Most likely though, it just makes them feel angry and defensive (or alternatively aloof and dismissive.) They still like spaghetti and because of your extreme reaction to the invitation, they distance themselves from you and don’t invite you to join other things. You feel like they don’t like you because you don’t like spaghetti. You feel this is unfair.
Option 2) You put on a metaphorical mask and join the spaghetti club.
You pretend to like spaghetti when you really don’t. You might be able to do this for a while and might still have some fun, but every time you go to the spaghetti club you feel fake. You feel phony. You start to realize that you aren’t happy going to the spaghetti club and every time you go it gets harder to pretend like you do (also called: hiding behind the mask.) Eventually, you have had enough and tell everyone that you hate spaghetti. Your friends at the club are confused and don’t understand why you ever said that you liked it in the first place. You get angry because you feel like you had to be fake to be liked. Everyone feels awkward. In some cases, it might mean that the friendships end. This can be what happens when you wear a metaphorical mask.
Option 3) You put on a metaphorical filter and highlight something that you do like.
You thank your friend for the offer and tell them that you don’t really like spaghetti, but you LOVE pizza. You learn that your friend also LOVES pizza. Instead of joining the spaghetti club, the two of you decide to join an Italian food club. You get to eat pizza every time you go out and your friend gets to eat pizza or spaghetti. The fact that you don’t like spaghetti is not a big deal, because no one made it one. This can be what happens when you wear a metaphorical filter. You still have your opinions and your preferences. You still get to be you. However, because you highlighted what have in common with your friend, the fact that you don’t like spaghetti is not a problem. Since you also did not make your friend feel bad for liking spaghetti, they feel respected.
In closing, it is almost always a good idea to be yourself around other people, just choose to be the best version of yourself. You don’t have to lie to make friends. You are also allowed to disagree with people without ending friendships. Learning how to filter yourself will ultimately prove to be more beneficial for you in the long run than trying to fake acceptance. If you find yourself in a situation where you can not comfortably be true to yourself; ask yourself “why”? You may realize that it is a better idea to trade that mask in for a filter.