Be Who You Really Are…Or Suffer

Dr. Cindy Haines Health Guide
  • When you are hiding something, do you feel good? Chances are, you don't. You probably feel at least a little stressed, maybe a bit anxious…but not good.


    And that's natural - it takes energy to do that, to conceal the truth. I also think it builds resentment within oneself - resentment at the energy it takes to "have to" do this. Energy that could be spent doing what you'd really like to be doing which, in my opinion, is living life the way you really want to live it, being who you really are. I think this "resent-able" energy that must be spent hiding something (anything) creates a sense of unrest.

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    What's more: Hiding something important to ourselves and our authentic identity may lead to disruption of our basic skills and abilities. In other words, a "concealer of true self" doesn't function as well as a "revealer of true self."


    I ran across new research on this concept in my daily scan of the health news wires that really caught my eye and my attention: The theory that the consequences of withholding information, such as sexual orientation, can affect intellectual, physical, and interpersonal functioning in a negative way.


    The co-authors Clayton Critcher, assistant professor at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, and Melissa Ferguson of Cornell University, detailed multiple negative consequences of concealment. The researchers conducted four variations of a study, finding that those randomly assigned to conceal their sexual orientation performed tasks 17 percent worse than those who were not asked to conceal. In another experiment, participants asked to conceal their sexual orientation demonstrated reduced physical stamina compared to those in a control group. Other experiments revealed links between concealment and less interpersonal restraint (more rudeness or short temperament).


    If you don't feel free to express your true self, this "stuffing" behavior may lead to more damage than what first meets the eye. When people "stuff," it doesn’t go away - it just comes out later, perhaps more forcefully, or in a misdirected way. For example, if you are feeling upset at a confrontation that happened during the course of your day and you feel uncomfortable with conflict, you may suppress a desire to work out the real issue and instead choose to reach for a fat-laden comfort food while relaxing on the couch. Veggin' out - or checking out.


    If one is forced to conceal one's true nature day-in and day-out, for fear of what would happen if people "really knew who he/she is," what then, of the mental, physical and spiritual health effects that this could have? Over time, the chronic stress of pretending to be someone you're really not could wear one down, creating eternal inflammation of body, mind, and spirit.


    On the other hand: Could it be that perhaps the energy saved by presenting oneself authentically can be put forth into optimization of the tasks at hand (or optimization of a healthy and happy life)?


    Dr. Cindy Haines is a family doctor, medical journalist and "70.3 yogi." For even more tips on how to get better health and need the health care system less, check out: The New Prescription: How to Get the Best Health Care in a Broken System by Dr. Cynthia D. Haines, M.D. (Dr. Cindy Haines) and Eric Metcalf, M.P.H. This is a book about getting what you really want: better health on your own terms. More medical care doesn’t mean better health. Dr. Haines and Metcalf reveal some of the most egregious problems with a medical system gone awry, opening readers’ eyes to how to better navigate the changes underway. Using solid research, insiders’ insights, and patient anecdotes, they offer cost-effective and potentially life-saving ways to get more out of health care while using less of it.


Published On: November 16, 2013