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Fake it until you Break: the trues cost of professional Masks

Over the last four years, I have sat down with over 80 professionals from various industries for a deep conversation. Privately, the majority grapples with complex challenges while maintaining a professional facade.

Our hour-long discussions uncover their evident dissatisfaction at work— weather it is a desire for greater professional growth, personal battles with work-life balance, or dilemmas stemming from change that would impact their entire family. Despite the evident stress these issues induce over extended periods (sometimes years!), guess what their response is, when I inquire about their plans for change?

They come up with numerous excuses for procrastination.

The Sound of Dissatisfaction at Work

Discontent at work can arise from both professional and personal issues.

It often manifests in statements like:

→ "I don't have spare time to reflect on what's wrong." → "I'd rather quit; it's the only way to make a change." → "It's inconvenient but not urgent; maybe things will improve in a few months." → "I'm privileged to have a job; I shouldn't complain." → "I can't pause my life to find purpose; I'm not a teenager anymore." → "It's complicated, and I can't do much about it; my hands are tied."

As a result, many brilliant professionals suffer silently for months, escalating their stress levels by nurturing their 'wicked problem'  (more in the next newsletter).

When I reconnect with them, they have often become quiet quitters, resigning silently without much fuss. Freed from the burden of addressing their issues under work pressure, they now grapple with the aftermath of burnout or the stress of unemployment. The Cost of Holding Your Professional Mask for too long

Unfortunately, we often learn life lessons through hardship.

If you enjoy learning “the hard way”, feel free to skip ahead.

For those who prefer to bypass negative experiences, let me share the real cost of wearing a professional mask for too long. Recall my mental breakdown at the creative agency in Berlin, as discussed in the 2nd newsletter edition?

Read the Article Here here: How are you, really?

Well, as a young inexperienced professional, I excelled at maintaining my Mask.

Colleagues described me as positive, helpful, and optimistic, "always smiling" and approachable. Yet, privately, I felt the performance pressure, constantly striving to please others and rarely leaving the office on time. Although my manager was supportive, my rigid interpretation of "professionalism" caused internal turmoil. Stress began to manifest in physical symptoms.

The toll? Here's the breakdown:

  • 25+ books on psychology and alternative diets: approx. €375

  • 5+ years of private doctor visits due to panic attacks: approx. €4,800

  • 4 years of weekly sessions with a psychologist: approx. €7,821

  • 2 years of annual fasting retreats: approx. €2,500

  • 3 years of dietary supplements: approx. €900

  • 3 years of lab tests to identify the root cause: approx. €500

In total, my friend the Burnout arrived early in my 20-ies, costed me:

→ Time lost: 1,825 days living in silent stress → Money lost: €16,896 as a privately insured individual → Energy lost: countless hours wasted on worry, anxiety, and public pretending → Opportunities lost: countless hours devoid of joy, excitement, and fulfilment’

Quite costly to just wait for problems to "resolve themselves," isn't it?

Resolving complex Problems requires Time and Attention

My panic attacks stopped when I decided to consider a change. For me, the solution was simple: relocation. Immersing myself in a new social and cultural environment allowed me to engage with new people and energizing activities.

However, getting to the roots of my problem required time and attention.It involved a process of introspection, experimentation, and deliberate change — a form of creative problem-solving seldom taught in academia.

At the time, I failed to recognize the complexity of my problem—it was truly "wicked". Everything seemed fine on the surface, but the triggers lurked in my subconscious, and the necessary changes appeared overwhelming.

When I began making small changes, I gained clarity and built my confidence to pursue a unique professional and personal path. If only I had the tools I possess now, the journey would have been much more pleasant.

Radical Honesty: Pills or Post-its?

Change needn't be radical, but it does require radical honesty.

It's often not about HAVING time to address issues;

it's about MAKING time.

Often, if it is not painful enough, we don´t consider it urgent.

But let me tell you, when the pain becomes unbearable, it's already too late.

Change won't be fun; it'll be daunting.

Just show up for yourself, for a more fulfilled Future You.

Start with the basics with a free video: Foundations of Life Design.

The choice is yours: Pills or Post-its?

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