I hate networking. It makes me feel sweaty and weird and physically kind of gross, and I always thought I was just lacking that "killer instinct" every successful business lady seems to have in the movies. Turns out, my need for a shower after all that handshaking may be a scientifically proven fact. According to a new study published in Psychological Science, being untrue to yourself is directly linked to feelings of immorality and impurity.
The study, which was comprised of five experiments, walked participants through a series of surveys regarding their past experiences of feeling inauthentic. What researchers found was that not only does acting phony make you feel bad emotionally, but it also leads many people to feel physically unclean, as well.
In one survey, for example, people were asked to write about a time in their professional or personal lives when they felt fake, versus a time when they felt their actions reflected their true feelings. They were then asked to rate their sense of impurity, including feeling "dirty" or "tainted," on a seven-point scale. On average, those who acted fake rated their feelings as 3.56; those who were true to themselves only hit an average of 1.5.
These findings are not necessarily groundbreaking; another study published by the Administrative Science Quarterly found something similar when they asked people to leave a voicemail and lie in it. Most of them expressed an increased desire for mouthwash afterwards.
But feeling literally, physically gross also had an unexpected upside: Those who needed to take a shower were also more likely to compensate by, in this case, agreeing to an additional 15 minute survey to help out the research team. Those who had recalled instances of honesty were much less likely to arbitrarily help out someone.
So for those of you struggling to be your authentic selves, whatever that may mean for you, there's a lesson in this: Coming clean and being true may improve your wellbeing on a number of levels, both emotional and physical. Not only will it get more bearable once you take that first step of honesty, it will get a whole lot better.