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Front-Stage, Backstage

September 1, 2022

Woman singing on stage dressed like a tree in black gown with green hair filled with apples, behind her is her shy real self peeking out from behind fake stage apple treeblank vertical space, 16 pixels highAre you one of those people who presents one face to the world, and another when you’re by yourself?blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Hey, me too!blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

We all are, really, at least to some degree.blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

I got the idea for this post from an article in the Wall Street journal called, 5 Principles for a Better Post-Pandemic You.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

What?– you mean I wasn’t perfect before the pandemic??blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

For me, the most intriguing idea was that each of us has a front-stage and a backstage self. The author, Brad Stulberg, references a 1959 book by sociologist Erving Goffman called The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life.blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

According to Goffman, social interaction is like the theater. We’re all playing roles.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

When we have an audience, we feel the audience has certain expectations, and we act accordingly. We try to behave in a way that makes us look good.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Mr. Stulberg says we’re in front-stage mode when we try to delude ourselves and be something we’re not. Our backstage mode is when we stop acting, and don’t care how we’re perceived by others.blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

I grew up in a family where appearances were very important. The big question was always: What will people think? So I tend to be in front-stage mode most of the time. (I suspect my being a first-born also has something to do with it.)blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

[Interesting: as I sit here alone typing this post, I’m in backstage mode– but not quite. I’m thinking about what impression this post will make on readers.]blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

Staying in front-stage mode for lengthy periods is risky, says Mr. Stulberg, especially if there’s a big gap between your front and backstage selves. You feel the deception. You know you’re a phony.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

We tend to hide behind our front-stage selves because we’re afraid of appearing vulnerable, weak, not good enough. Mr. Stulberg argues that accepting our vulnerability is crucial. That doing so helps us know and trust ourselves more fully.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

It also helps us forge more nourishing bonds with others. Stulberg cites a 2018 study that found that demonstrating vulnerability makes others perceive us as strong, grounded, and trustworthy.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Hm. Am I going to have to embrace my backstage self?? Sounds like there could be some advantages.blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

So how do you “demonstrate vulnerability”?blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Mr. Stulberg says you start by asking yourself what you actually feel in a given situation, and then letting others know about it– or at least something close to it. That by doing so, you’ll win others’ trust and gain self-confidence.blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

All of which reminds me of something I wrote in this post about brand voice:blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

A small business or self-employed person can’t manufacture a false personae and maintain it over the long term. You need to be yourself: it’s an essential part of being unique, and being consistent.blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

Well, time to get back to my dressing room– thanks for reading!
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About Mark: I’m an illustrator specializing in humor, branding, social media, and content marketing. My images are different, like your brand needs to be.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

You can view my portfolio, and connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Questions? Send me an email.blank vertical space, 40 pixels highRecommendation testimonial for Mark Armstrong Illustration from Angela Zimmerman, Editor-in-Chief, Crawdaddy Magazine

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. September 1, 2022 5:49 PM

    Hi Mark, Good to see you posting at WP. I must say that I think there’s little difference in my front-stage, back-stage selves. I’m just me whether I’m in a crowd or by myself, and that includes my left and right stages. BTW, I deleted my old site after 11 years and am on a new journey at WP. I’ll still have writing and artwork to post. Give me a follow when you have the chance. Take care.


    • September 7, 2022 10:31 AM

      Hi, Steve! Always good to hear from you, and please excuse this late reply. Your new WP site looks good. Ran into a problem, tho: I couldn’t subscribe to it. WP kept telling me my email address was invalid, even tho it’s the same one I’ve been using for years. Seems to me WP has gotten crankier over the past few years!! 😠

      However, I saved your new URL and will make it a point to visit. Hope you’re well, and very glad to hear you’re still writing and creating! Cheers, Mark


  2. September 20, 2022 5:28 PM

    My front-stage and backstage self is mostly one and the same, though there are times it would be better if I had two ‘selves’!


    • September 22, 2022 7:55 AM

      Ha! I don’t care how many selves you have, Margy– I like ’em all! Sorry to be a stranger– I promise to visit your blog soonest!! 🙏😊


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