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10 Ways of Catching the Performative Self

Updated: Jul 18, 2023


Ever wonder who you'd be without the world's reactions to your natural way of Being, conditioning your identity? The performative identity is the idea that our behaviors are largely informed by the perception of audience or external lens consuming your words and actions. The classic nature-nurture paradox challenges us to ask how much of who we are outpictures from our experiences vs. our genetics and biology. As a little girl, I sucked my thumb. My mother believed I did it en utero because at my premature birth of just 5 months, it was a well formed habit at birth. I remember feeling very comfortable and secure with my thumb in my mouth tucked under my mom's arm or a blanket wrapped around my arm to rub while comforting myself with my thumb. Then I got to an age where it clearly became a 'too-old-for-me-thing' because the not the "subtle" reminders that "big girls did't suck their thumbs" and my mother's sudden pulling of my thumb from my mouth when in front of certain people and environments began. I suddenly sensed shame about this benign habit that suddenly felt wrong to do.

The early programming that feelings associated with self-soothing/self-caring was something to not wantingly or gratuitously display. I noted the 'don't laugh so loud' and 'young ladies don't" speeches followed me across my girlhood shaping my public pleasure acts; I learned to adjust how I ate, laughed, sat and spoke when in public. It seems people had secret opinions about how I should be that I had unspoken agreement to adhere. This angered, saddened and confused me. It seems people weren't happy when I felt most like me but would rather have me create new behaviors that would make up a more acceptable front-double that was me-esque.

As I've spent an adult-hood stripping my assigned behaviors from natural orientations, I've become keenly aware of when I am filtering my behaviors through perceived acceptance.


A pretty clear sign that your performative self is front-running is to notice how often you withhold how you really feel, the thing you really want to say or deeply desire to do. There's been a railing against respectability politics, the kind of diplomacy that forces conformity and societal norms as monolithic standards of "acceptable behaviors". We all play in shades of social acceptance however, the ones that lead to us feeling like there's no place in the world for true expression, should be examined and loosened.


My Mama would always say to my brother and "let your yeses mean yes and your no's mean

no"! This statement would usually be followed when we complained about having to do something that we didn't really want to do. She'd ask, "Did you say you'd do it?" and we'd relunctantly admit to agreeing to which she'd follow up with, "well it's your fault for agreeing to something you didn't mean"! [INSERT EYE ROLL]. What I believe she meant, was to make us more mindful of the misery we create for ourselves and others when we are falsly agree or disagree to spend our time, energy, resources doing something contrary with our truth.


When we are either taking in too much data or unable to receive any feedback from the world, it's an indication that the performative self has established boundaries that either too rigid or loose. When we are performing from defensiveness (the self that guards/protects) or hyper-willingness (the self that over extends from lack of core identity), we can find ourselves creating personas that veer us into an identity that only reacts. to stimulus vs. exploring and harmonizing with life. Our best way to catch this orientation is to ask, "what would I do if I wasn't worried about


"STOP TALKIN OUT THE SIDE OF YO NECK!", when you heard that on the block it meant someone wasn't either being direct in what they meant, was caught saying something else from what was reported through the grapevine or someone who had absolutely no Earthly clue on what they were speaking about. I often catch my performative self wanting to sound a certain way to be believable or acceptable. If you find yourself unable to speak authentically, you might ask what will I stand to gain or loose if I communicate what I really want to say, how I want to say it and to whom I'd like to say it?



"WHY YOU RUNNIN' ALL ROUND DA MULLBERRY BUSH ABOUT IT?", said the impatient elders who would rather you get straight to the point of whatever you're "carryin on" about, wasting their precious, elder time. We create a lot of smoke and mirror when we reveal what we truly desire vs. hiding our intentions and manipulating to get out way and trust others in their decision to either resonate and collaborate with what we want or not. Further, we can examine our self-perceptions and our capacity to fulfill ourselves.


Do you trust your core or do you heavily rely on the filters and feedback of others before you locate yourself? I find when I arrive at a certainty in a decision or orientation (even an outfit), and the minute I start receiving contrasting feedback from the world, I question my certainty. While there's absolutely nothing wrong with being open to the external opinion - we can grow, learn and integrate the world into our thinking when we are willing to consider more than own perspective. However, there's great difference in pausing to reflect and expand your ideas from feedback and allowing feedback to spin you completely away from yourself. Catch yourself twisting into the expectations of others.


The Soul is not a Rubix matter how we twist configurations, we can never divide ourselves into neat shapes and colors. We are more like collage, mystery and Galaxy; merged, intertwinned and unified with Everything. The Universal Design is Interconnectedness. We are designed to reference everything in Ourselves and in Ourselves, witness everything. We can catch the Performative Self effecting to keep neat lines of feeling, relationship and experience, never allowing different parts of lives to bleed into other places. We believe things like. "you don't cry at work" or "I couldn't possibly show my SO my anger" - all signs that we could be tucking parts of ourselves into convenient spaces where contrast will be less disruptive to life. Take more risk exposing parts of you with people and places that stretch your comfort zones.


We steal pleasure from ourselves when we are mostly experiencing great frustration from not being able to authentically express ourselves. There's talk about how parents revenge sleep, the practice staying up late to indulge in the time you couldn't give yourself during the day. We binge watch TV to avenge the sacrifice of committed time and focus, We steal money from ourselves when we revenge shop from having to "pay bills all the time". Performative Self has been taking on a great amount of responsibility and our pleasure centers are screaming like 'Easy' buttons - "Just push me and this burden will lesson". It's easy to revenge indulge as antedote to being stuck in a life that forces you to perform conformity and survival over the freedoms we'd choose for ourselves. Examine how much energy you put towards escaping or numbing from the pain of not living the life you desire vs. the energies you could put toward your goals.


I heard someone say that an aspect of depression shows itself as no longer being able to sustain the performance of life...or something like that. I really like this idea because I often experience bouts of shut down when I need a break from routine of life (so many of our routines are produce passion erosion). We need to feel alive and inspired to spark our go in life. We have endless cinematic examples of the uninspired character living the ho-hum, monochromatic life, stuck in dull routines with no will or lust. The character seems checked out and shut down then, suddenly, a great source of inspiration disrupts the character's life that reignites creative, energetic and curious ways to stay playful and playing our lives. Catch yourself berating your need to replenish and re-inspire yourself.

10. THERE'S NO NUMBER 10: Instead, I'd like to bring your attention to the many you's you are - this mind rant was not an invitation to diminish the Ones in you that reflect different parts of you, different rooms of your House and the different playgrounds you choose to be these Selves. There is difference in CHOOSING to activate your dynamic range of Being and feeling like you have to create disharmonies in yourself to successfully survive the world. The throughline here is to challenge yourself to live in ways where you feel Wholly Seen, Heard, Respected, Accepted, Permitted, Celebrated and Loved; and, the only way to know if that's possible make known, your most true Self. Loving YourSelves, Unconditionally means your will be become aligned with a world that reflects and accepts everything about you.

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