I have a friend who I regularly WhatsApp message with, and I have come to love the asynchronous communication that WhatsApp allows. We are able to get into some deeper exchanges that may not be as available to us if we were in real time with one another because we can listen, think and then respond when we are ready.
Over the weekend, we talked about having different friends and how sometimes we have to be different people in different settings. I said how inefficient that was! I said it in a flippant way noting how capitalistic I sounded but pondering on it some more, it really is true.
The mental and emotional bandwidth taken up by being a different person to different people is a modern day phenomenon. I want to acknowledge that this is especially the case for marginalized people. When our brains evolved, we weren’t navigating a life that required for us to don so many hats in countless social situations and settings. Our bodies are built for efficiency and spending that much brain and heart power on these various social situations is rather inefficient.
Our brains were built for efficiency, and our identities were developed to be congruent. When we switch between all of these roles, we can get burnt out. Maybe the burn out is explained away because “I am an introvert” or “I just don’t like people”, but maybe it’s just that our brains don’t want to be working on overdrive all the time because we aren’t in congruency. (This doesn’t even get into the nervous system responses we have in spaces where we may not feel safe being ourselves.)
I don’t think the answer is that we hang out with all the same kinds of people all of the time because the richness of life and society is the interweaving of many different kinds of people. I think the answer is, as idealistic as it may sound, to practice being ourselves in every setting that feels safe to do so (this includes growing our sense of safety through the inner work to soothe our nervous systems) and to create safe spaces for others to do the same so that becomes normal in our culture.
What are the two settings in your life where you have to wear the two most different hats? Or maybe there are none. I’d love to hear! And when I get your reply, I’ll be sure to share mine with you as well.
I write everyday because it allows me to voice what is at the surface. Once that is out of my head, I can dig in another layer deeper. My daily writing practice has been my greatest exploration of self and humanity. Sign up here to receive these thought nuggets in your inbox on the daily.