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Shed the Likeability Mask—Costumes Are for Halloween

Somehow, summer slipped by and we’re now staring down the end of October. For many, this means their attention has turned to the first holiday of the season: Halloween. Whether you have children or are simply a kid at heart, participating in this annual autumn celebration means a few tricks, lots of treats, and maybe even a costume or two.

Costumes are fascinating, aren’t they? On Halloween, they’re a fun way to pretend to be someone you aren’t. Throughout the rest of the year, many of us are quite skilled at concealing our authentic selves. We don’t need the terrible polyester getup to hide behind.

This Halloween, what are you afraid of? Are you scared of showing people who you really are? Frightened by the possibility of being disliked? Afraid of the judgment you may feel if you show up as your authentic self?

Don’t wear a Goldilocks costume

Your reason can be one of those fears, or more likely, a combination of all of the above. Each one leaves us feeling vulnerable and exposed. To protect ourselves, we present a version of ourselves we think the world wants to see.

I’ve talked before about Goldilocks Syndrome, when we tone down ourselves to be likable. For women, this usually means striking a balance between smiling enough to be pleasing, but not so much that you draw too much attention to yourself.

Alicia Menendez talks about this notion of editing ourselves so you aren’t judged as too nice or too aggressive in her book, The Likeability Trap: How to Break Free and Succeed as You Are. Not surprisingly, Forbes believes this issue is one of the most significant disadvantages women face in business.

This is 2023, and the fact that women still feel like a Goldilocks costume is needed to be truly heard and accepted is, frankly, sad.

Figurative costumes, real consequences

So often, you hide who you are because you fear being disliked. You don’t want to be perceived as aggressive or pushy, so you tone down your authenticity to appease the expectations of others.

Being liked feels good but hiding who you are to fit into the mold of who you think others want you to be limits your potential in a big way.

Whether you’re in a negotiation or a social situation, you probably take the temperature of the room to decide how much, if any, of yourself you’re going to reveal. You only want to bring the amount of yourself you believe will be accepted, but is that healthy?

I don’t think so. Ultimately, there’s a chance you won’t be liked, regardless of the costume you wear. There’s no guarantee people will like the person you’re pretending to be.

Maintaining this facade is exhausting. In the case of a negotiation, you’d be better off investing your energy into strategy and preparation. Using your time to work on showing up as your most prepared, confident, and best self is far more beneficial.

When you pretend to be something you're not, the pretense keeps you from being present. Your internal narrative takes over, as you constantly try to figure out if what you're saying or doing is acceptable. Being yourself means you’re more present, attentive, and emotionally engaged.

Ultimately, this is a question of control. You can’t control what others think of you, but you can manage your behavior, including how well you prepare for a negotiation. Act on what you can. Don’t waste energy on what you can't.

The most successful people already know this. A recent analysis of salespeople found that 89% of elite salespeople didn’t feel the need to be liked, while 86% of the weakest salespeople wanted to be liked.

Will you wear your costume long after Halloween is over? You have a choice. You can keep it on, shielding your true self from the world and blocking authentic human interaction.

Or, you can commit to revealing who you really are and work toward living without fear of others’ opinions. Hiding is easy. Authenticity is far more difficult. This shift isn’t easy, but the payoff is well worth the work.


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