Hiding your true colours may do more harm than good as new research shows that we feel impure and immoral when we violate our true sense of self.
Shakespeare's advice: be true to yourself, has an psychological rooting as the drive for authenticity or living in accordance with our sense of self, emotions, and values is fundamental to our lifestyle.
This sense of impurity may lead us to engage in cleansing or charitable behaviours as a way of clearing our conscience.
"Our work shows that feeling inauthentic is not a fleeting or cursory phenomenon -- it cuts to the very essence of what it means to be a moral person," explains psychological scientist Maryam Kouchaki of the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.
Inauthenticity may have similar psychological consequences as immoral behaviours like lying or cheating since both types of behaviours are a violation of being true.
Participants who wrote about a time they felt inauthentic reported feeling more out of touch with their true selves and more impure or tainted than participants who wrote about a time when they felt authentic.
They also reported lower moral self-regard, rating themselves as less generous and cooperative, for example, than the authentic participants.
"In order to be responsive to various demands from customers, co-workers, and upper management, individuals may find themselves behaving in ways that are not consistent with their 'true self'," Kouchaki noted.
The findings were published in the journal Psychological Science.