09/20/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Warning: Faking It May Cause Embarrassing Personal Leakage

Don't you just hate it when the real you leaks out?

Like that time when, after one too many sloe gin fizzes, you finally told your sister-in-law what you really think about her and her whiny ways.

Then there was that time when the boss announced his grand plan for improving interdepartmental productivity and you "accidentally" snorted. Out loud. During the annual meeting. While you were standing next to the microphone.

And how about that party where your neighbor was talking about politics and religion and you just had to blurt out, "I wonder what Jesus would think of your narrow-minded judgemental ways."

Oh wait, those things didn't happen to you. They happened to me, and they continue to happen to me every time I try to pretend to be somebody I'm not.

Whether it's masquerading as a demure daughter-in-law; pretending that middle management is your life calling; or feigning Stepford Wifeliness, at a certain point faking it gets old. And the stress of trying to keep your real self under wraps makes you cranky as hell.

My own social faux pas aside, I'm always amazed at the lengths we're willing to go to - and how much of ourselves we're willing to stifle - just to fit in.

Many of us spend the better part of our 20s and 30s (and sometimes beyond) trying to measure up to some manufactured picture we have in our head of what - or who - we think we should be.

Personally, I blame television and guidance counselors.

TV, because it presents a one-dimensional view of human beings and it promises happiness via purchasing power; and guidance counselors - or at least some of them - because they often spend more time talking about job descriptions and paychecks than they do teaching the skill of self-discovery.

My own kids are only 10 and 15, yet they've both come home from school after various "career days" worried because some well-meaning adult has told them that their passions - fashion design and movie making - don't pay very well.

Hello? Have these people never heard of Steven Spielberg or Donna Karan?

Is it any wonder many of us are disconnected from our authentic selves when we live in a culture that promises happiness via clean laundry and a 401K plan?

However, try as we might to find bliss via pre-scripted roles, our souls know when we're faking it. And that feeling of being inauthentic almost always leads us into negativity and criticism.

When you're out of sync with yourself, you don't have a lot of patience with others. And when you're in a role that isn't a fit for you, the whole world, or at least the world you inhabit, feels wrong.

Choosing a persona - be it perfect parent, corporate flunkie or tarot card reader - and then trying to force yourself to fit into it might seem like a formula for a happy life.

But it never works. Because when you try to cover up the real you, it seeps out in all kinds of negative ways.

However, when you know who you really are, your authentic self pours out in all kinds of positive ways. And there's almost never any embarrassing leakage.

Lisa Earle McLeod is a keynote speaker, syndicated columnist and the author of Forget Perfect and Finding Grace When You Can't Even Find Clean Underwear. She specializes in helping individuals and organizations turn angst and dysfunction into happiness and success (no groups hugs or prozac required) For more info -

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