Many if not all people manage the impressions that others have of us from time to time. We think about what clothes we wear to certain occasions and how we would like to come across. We sometimes selectively choose which information to give out about oneself, and will often change our language in front of certain people over others. People often manage their own impressions in order to get something they want, and this can often prove beneficial and successful. However, by managing other people’s impressions of yourself in numerous situations, there is a risk of interfering with our actual/real identity as this impedes our development of our sense of self.
Those who engage in managing impressions excessively have a tendency of overtly focusing on portraying a particular view of who we are and attempt to control how other people think and feel about us. By placing so much time and energy in controlling how we are perceived, it leaves little to no room to develop or even think about our real selves. Overtly investing in impression management, our sense of self has little substance and leads us to constantly change the way we behave by altering our ideas and changing our shape and form, much like a chameleon. Occasionally, we neglect to notice our own ideas due to being so intent on being seen as the impressive person which needs to be depicted in a particular situation.
Many might question, if managing impressions allows us to get the things we want, then why is it a problem in creating the impressions we desire? For example, why does it matter if today it would be good to be viewed as respectful and punctual in one environment, but exhibit more colourful and outlandish types of behaviour in another?
Those who practice impression management regularly for years (some quite successfully) often feel that they start to experience a vague sense of something being wrong in their lives. Numerous people have difficulties in relationships or in creating lasting relationships. Those who seek therapy to solve this disturbing sense will often find it difficult to explain in words this emptiness or tired dissatisfaction with life. Through therapy, it becomes apparent the underlying feelings that have been pushed aside in the process of creating false impressions. As those discuss this in therapy, they become aware of numerous feelings including: shame, a lack of self-confidence, anxiety about failure, self-hate, and others which have been protected against.
One goal of treatment is to identify and let go of these behaviours with a therapist. This then allows you to focus on the conversation, which will then ensure one is able to enjoy high quality social interactions with everyone, not just with close friends and family.