What's Wrong With Hiding Your Feelings?

"Don't cry out loud," sang Melissa Manchester in her 1978 hit. "Just keep it inside. Learn how to hide your feelings." I always thought this song gave terrible advice, though. While there are certainly better times and places for tears than others, suppressing your emotions permanently just seems like an uphill battle; they'll come back to bite you eventually in some form or another. In addition, recent research suggests that failure to display our emotions makes us less likable — so maybe it's time to stop suppressing what we feel all the time.

The study, which was conducted by researchers from the University of Oregon and published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, asked several actors to watch a funny scene from When Harry Met Sally (you know, that one with the fake orgasm in the diner) and a sad scene from The Champ and either display or hide their emotional responses. Then, 150 students watched videos of the actors' reactions; some also saw what scenes the actors were watching, while others didn't. The students then filled out a survey asking what they thought of the actors' personality traits and likability.

Sure enough, the students rated the actors who hid their emotions as less extroverted and agreeable, as well as more “avoidant in close relationships,” than those who displayed them. They even said they were less likely to affiliate with those who failed to react to the movies. (One amusing exception was that those who kept a straight face during the When Harry Met Sally scene were rated as more polite.) Sanjay Srivastava, an author of the study, told New York Magazine's Science of Us blog the results showed that those who repress their feelings "seem like the sort of people who are socially distant and indifferent to others’ feelings." I wonder what Melissa Manchester would say about that.

Actually, there are a lot of problems with pretending to feel something or be someone you're not. Here are a few more scientific findings that might convince you not to "keep it inside" after all. "Faking it til you make" might be a thing, but there's also something to be said for just letting yourself be... well, yourself.

1. Repression leaves people more prone to disease.

The group of people classified by some scientists as "repressors," who remain cool, calm, and collected in all situations, are more likely to suffer from infectious diseases, as well as high blood pressure, asthma, and marital problems. Usually, these people have learned that emotions are bad during their childhoods and require therapy to unlearn this belief.

2. Hiding your personality diminishes workplace contentment.

One study found that people who have to exhibit the opposite of their personalities for their jobs — introverts who must act extroverted at work and extroverts required to act introverted — report more workplace stress and less job satisfaction. Since acting the part your job requires isn't always avoidable, the study's authors suggest offices add accommodations for different personality types, such as quiet spaces for introverts to relax.

3. Acting disingenuous makes us feel immoral.

When the subjects of one experiment had to recount times in their lives when they'd behaved inauthentically, they reported feeling more "dirty" and "tainted" than those who recalled a time they'd been true to themselves. This is likely because many people value honesty to the point that we feel bad about ourselves if we don't exhibit it. Caitlyn Jenner expressed the extreme of this discomfort when she said, "If I was lying on my deathbed and I had kept this secret and never ever did anything about it, I would be lying there saying, ‘You just blew your entire life.'"