Personality masks, like the overachieving mask, may help you to fit in or hide in plain sight. But they can be exhausting and cause undue stress in people who use them regularly.

A personality mask allows those who wear them to hide their real self from others. While masks can serve as a barrier of protection for your self-esteem and hurt, they can also lead to:

  • stress
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • exhaustion

Personality masks are often a self-defense mechanism. They help protect you from hurt due to societal rejection, abusers, or bullies.

Masking your personality means you take steps to cover up who you really are around other people in social, work, or personal interactions. You can mask your personality with:

  • words
  • facial expressions
  • body language
  • actions

1. The martyr or victim mask

The martyr or victim mask does not accept blame to protect their self-esteem.

Instead, if you or a loved one uses this mask, you may blame things in the outside world for your own problems and failures as a way to protect your self-esteem.

2. The bully mask

If you feel self-doubt or have been abused, you may turn to bullying as a way to keep people away.

This may take the form of acting out physically, picking fun of others, or coercing others to accept your opinion to overcompensate for their poor self-esteem.

3. The humor mask

People may use humor to prevent getting laughed at by others or hide feelings of sadness. After all, no one can laugh at you if you are already laughing at yourself.

And others also won’t know how you really feel if you hide your pain with attempts at humor.

4. The calm mask

Some people wear a calm mask in nearly every situation. If this is you or a loved one, you or your loved one might bottle up their emotional responses and show only a calm, even composure.

When this happens, the emotions have no place to go. A person wearing the calm mask may eventually explode or become emotionally dysregulated.

5. The overachieving mask

If you are wearing the overachieving mask, you may strive for perfection. Anyone using this mask might hope to gain acceptance and praise for doing things perfectly.

In this case, self-esteem relies too heavily on being perfect, which means you might internalize any mistake. The need for perfection can also cause a constant state of anxiety.

6. The self-bashing mask

Do you or a loved one talk down about yourselves? Even if you do this in jest or joke around about the self-put-downs, it is a defense mechanism meant to shield the person from being made fun of or hurt.

Self-bashing can also be a defensive method against low self-esteem. It may also be used as a protective mechanism as a way to put yourself down before someone else does.

7. The avoidant mask

The avoidant mask involves withdrawing into yourself for fear of rejection and judgment of your mistakes. You or a loved one may avoid saying much to others or being around others. Withdrawing can cause you or a loved one to be socially isolated.

8. The controlling mask

The controlling mask wearer strives for a different type of perfection. If you use this mask, you will try to control everything around you so you can achieve a sense of security.

A person wearing this mask may plan every detail of an outing, demand their plans get used, and keep a very neat and tidy room, house, or workspace.

9. The people-pleasing mask

If you wear a people-pleasing mask, your self-esteem depends on the acceptance from others. You may often go out of your way to make sure other people around you are happy.

Making others happy gives you a sense of self-worth. You may live with extra anxiety related to making sure you’re making others around them happy.

10. The socializer mask

If you wear the socializer mask, you will use your ability to talk with anyone to mask insecurity. Though you may have many acquaintances, you may not have many meaningful friends because you keep conversations from going too deep.

11. The conformist mask

If you wear the conformist mask, you seek to follow what everyone else around you is doing. You’re desperate for acceptance and will follow cues from others in social groups you want to belong to.

Personality masking may occur as a response to:

  • social pressures
  • bullying
  • abuse
  • fear

No matter the direct cause or motivation, masking typically helps protect your true self from further emotional harm and lower self-esteem. After all, people can’t reject you for who you truly are if they never knew you in the first place.

It can lead to exhaustion since it takes so much extra energy to hide your true self. You might also experience depression or feelings of loneliness or have anxiety that someone may find out who you really are.

Neurodivergent vs. neurotypical

Neurodivergent people, like those on the autism spectrum, may wear masks to help them fit into society. According to a 2017 qualitative study, those who are neurodivergent tend to engage in more social camouflaging.

This type of masking involves attempting to replicate what others around them are doing for work, school, socially, and to find love interests.

Both neurodivergent and neurotypical people may develop personality masks in response to bullying or abuse. They may find that masking their thoughts or feelings may help prevent further abuse or bullying.

One of the first steps you can take is to determine what causes you to wear a mask around others. You may be able to use this new self-awareness to start dropping your mask and discover your true self.

This may help others become closer to you, but you should be prepared for rejection. Change isn’t always easy, and the reality is not everyone will like you for who you are.

But this is OK. You don’t need everyone to like you. Eventually, you’ll find the people who truly like you, not the mask you were wearing.

If you find you need help addressing your underlying reason for wearing a mask or letting your mask go, you may want to consider talking with a counselor or a loved one. They can help you develop new coping strategies for your fears or anxieties.