When performance is a performance

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How many times have you seen someone desperately trying to be something they’re not, whilst running themselves into the ground? Are you guilty of this?

Although pretending to be someone or something you’re not, as a creative pursuit, (think theatre), can be both challenging and good fun, it doesn’t always win you awards off stage.

As the great anonymous Vood-arian once said;

The greatest advantage of speaking the truth is that you don’t have to remember what you said.

The belief that you should ‘fake it until you make it’, is alive and well for plenty of people. If your behaviour is a constant performance, it could get exhausting. When you then revert to type it could also land you with some trust issues.

So why do we do it?

There are so many reasons that we put on a performance; trying to protect ourselves or others from hurt for example, or believing it is necessary to get ahead. As none of us are perfect, there’s also our ‘dark side’ that might need to be kept in check. (Anyone denying it?)

This week I am encouraging you to review your own level of performance when performing the various roles in your life to make sure you’re getting the balance right between ‘mask’ and ‘me’.

Question 1 – When do I perform?

Honestly and without judgement, can you think of any situations recently where you put on a bit of a performance?

Maybe you were exaggerating a bit, or consciously choosing to play down your opinion or play up your skills? Perhaps you tried to look enthusiastic when you felt the opposite or suppressed your true feelings?

Question 2 – Would it win a People Voodoo award? 

There may be times when a performance is the most humane approach. A hurt child needs reassurance. Blatantly ‘faking’ that everything is OK might be just what they need until they get patched up and calm down.

Putting on the same kind of show for your boss when asked for a project update could get messy.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself to assess when it’s best to drop the mask, or at least lift it up a bit.

  • Do I know when I’m doing it?
  • Why am I performing?
  • Is that a good enough reason?
  • Is everyone in this situation being treated with dignity and respect?
  • Is anyone, including me, going to get hurt now or in the future because of it?
  • If I had to sustain this kind of performance longer term, could I keep it up without exhausting myself?
  • Is this a skill I am working on that will feel less like a performance when I get better at it?
  • Does it feel dishonest?
  • Would those whose opinion I value, see it as dishonest?
  • What would happen if this came to light?
  • Is there another way to get the same result without performing?

As so often in my blogs, this exercise is all about self-awareness. Once you have the awareness, when and how much you perform is entirely up to you of course.

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