The Mask of High-Functioning Anxiety

Those with high-functioning anxiety wear a mask of calm, perfectionism, success, and busyness on the outside to shroud the torrent of overthinking, self-doubt, overanalyzing, fear of failure, and insecurity on the inside. This mask often stays in place because the fear of “what if’s” keeps it there— what if I’m really not good enough? What if people think I’m a fraud? What if everything falls apart? What if everybody thinks I’m weak, or a failure? In this episode, we’ll unveil the mask of high-functioning anxiety— what keeps the mask in place, what it’s hiding, and what you can do about it to find a greater sense of ease in your life.

In this episode, you will learn:

  • 4 specific “masks” that those with high-functioning anxiety tend to wear
  • The struggles these masks are really hiding within
  • How to peel back the layers of your mask so you can stop struggling and begin thriving



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Calmly Coping Podcast

INTRO/OUTRO MUSIC: Rescue Me (Instrumental) by Aussens@iter (c) copyright 2018 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license. Ft: Copperhead

DISCLAIMER: All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own mental health provider. Please consult a licensed mental health professional for all individual questions and issues.

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Click to view the episode transcript.

Those with high functioning anxiety wear a mask of calm, success, perfectionism, and busyness on the outside to shroud the torrent of overthinking, overanalyzing, fear of failure, self doubt, and insecurity on the inside. This mask often stays in place because the fear of what ifs keeps it there. What if I’m not good enough?

What if people think I’m a fraud? What if everything falls apart? What if everybody thinks I’m weak or a failure? In this episode, we’ll unveil the mask of high functioning anxiety. What keeps the mask in place, what it’s hiding, and what you can do about it to find a greater sense of ease in your life.

Welcome to Calmly Coping. I’m your host, Tati Garcia. I’m a licensed therapist and a high functioning anxiety coach. Calmly Coping is the podcast for people who struggle with anxiety and high functioning anxiety. Each Wednesday, you’ll hear informative episodes with actionable tips about decreasing anxiety, adopting a healthy mindset, and managing your time and energy so you can live a calm and balanced life.

Let’s get started.

Thank you so much for tuning in. One quick note before we dive into the episode, I have a live workshop coming up. If you’re catching this episode when it first comes out, it’s going to be taking place on January 6th, 2024. And the workshop is on how to cultivate a calm 2024. In this workshop, I’ll guide you through identifying a plan so that you can prioritize both your career and your success along with your mental health.

Many times creating a plan to care for ourselves and our mental health. false to the back burner. So I will guide you through a process to create sustainable self care for 2024. In this workshop, you can learn more and enroll by going to There will also be a recording available.

So if it’s past January 6th and you’re still interested in the workshop, you can still go to that link to sign up for it. So, the first way that high functioning anxiety demonstrates itself, the first mask that we can wear, is the mask of calm. That deceptive calm that others might see on the outside, that is actually hiding all of the overthinking and internal chatter that’s going on within.

It’s this appearance of calm and competence of having it all together of being able to handle things and often those with high functioning anxiety actually do really well under pressure do well during moments of stress and that’s when this calm can actually come out the most when in reality this external appearance of calm and competence is hiding the internal struggles that are going on under the surface.

And it can often be coming from this place of wanting to appear like you have it all together. Like you’re not struggling, like you’re not doubting yourself, like you’re not overthinking things because then if people find out then everything could fall apart and they could actually realize that maybe you aren’t competent in some ways.

When a lot of times That fear is just an exaggeration of our insecurities. So that mask of calm is covering up everything that’s going on within. I’ve worked with C level executives. I’ve worked with corporate professionals. I’ve worked with entrepreneurs, teachers, so many individuals who are successful in positions of leadership who are presenting themselves to others on a regular basis.

And you would. probably never know just by looking at or interacting with these people that they are actually struggling with high functioning anxiety under the surface. And that is one of the huge signifiers of high functioning anxiety. It’s this idea that it is hidden in plain sight. that you may not really recognize the people around you that are experiencing it.

And so because of that, it can often be so much harder to understand. You can see this person who is successful and doing well and appears to have it all together on the outside, but you’re not really seeing their internal experience and what they’re going through and the white knuckling they might be experiencing on a day to day basis.

And if this is a case for you personally, that’s how it could be with others. I know that in the past, if you were to ask my past coworkers or colleagues, they probably in most cases would not tell you that I was a very anxious person or somebody who was not competent to be doing what I was doing.

However, I was. struggling under the surface, and I was afraid to allow other people to see that. Another mask that can show up with high functioning anxiety is the mask of perfectionism. Wanting to appear like you’re doing everything perfect, like you’re never making mistakes. The constant pursuit of excellence and doing more and doing better and going above and beyond.

So not just doing what is expected of you, but doing well beyond what is expected of you going 110, 150 percent beyond what your expectations are, doing everything that you can to help others to not only do things for your own. position your own career but to help others to succeed or to answer their questions and to be there for everybody.

So these are just some ways that this perfectionism can show up the high expectations that you have for yourself and others and also the strong fear of failure and the fear of making mistakes and the fear of messing up and needing to have the right answer. So that perfectionism can become a mask because it’s hiding that fear of failure, the fear of inadequacy, the fear of not doing enough.

And so. It’s oftentimes you’re going above and beyond as a way of trying to massively avoid not doing enough or avoid the failure. So you’re basically going in the exact opposite direction because you’re so afraid of things going poorly or how people will perceive you if you’re not doing enough. So basically the typical of what’s expected to you always feels like it’s never enough.

And individuals with high functioning anxiety often struggle with perfectionism because of their high expectations and their high standards. And this is masking that inner turmoil of self doubt, of am I doing the right thing? Am I doing enough? Are people going to think that I’m a failure? Are people going to think that I’m incompetent?

And so that perfectionism can be a behavior that people engage in on the outside to avoid people seeing. the struggles on the inside and to also avoid hearing those kinds of negative criticisms or receiving negative consequences as a result. Another mask that shows up with high functioning anxiety is the mask of busyness, the mask of productivity, the mask of doing more.

It’s this mask of overachievement and it can kind of be similar to that mask of perfectionism, but what’s different about it is that it’s not necessarily about achieving a certain outcome or achieving, you know, the appearance of perfection, but it’s just about constantly being busy and constantly doing and needing to do more and oftentimes a difficulty with relaxing or stopping or slowing down.

And this busyness and this constant doing and this constant need for productivity can often serve as a distraction from the underlying anxiety. that you may feel as a person who is struggling with high functioning anxiety. So when you stop and slow down, you might have the anxiety come to the surface.

You might have the negative thoughts that you’ve been avoiding come up. You might have those self judgments of, I should be doing more. What’s wrong with me? I’m so lazy. And so you stay busy as a way of avoiding that self criticism. So that mask of busyness is covering up the anxiety and the self criticism that you’re experiencing under the surface and those things are still happening when you’re busy.

It’s just that you’re distracting yourself. You’re doing things so that you don’t have to face it because it feels too uncomfortable to face it because it feels too hard. Because you’ve trained yourself to continue to stay busy or you’ve learned that this is the way that you need to do things. And another mask that can show up with high functioning anxiety is the fear of uncertainty.

vulnerability. And so this is the mask of avoiding authentic connection or avoiding getting too close to people. So wanting to keep yourself at a distance, whether this is in professional relationships or personal relationships, I think it can oftentimes with high functioning anxiety show up in professional relationships, but it certainly does not have to be limited to that. And so it’s this fear of being perceived as weak, this fear of people seeing the real you. So this is the mask of I’m doing okay on the outside, but I’m going to maintain a distance. So you never really get too close and you can never really see that under the surface.

I’m constantly doubting myself. I’m constantly struggling and it’s really challenging for me. And this could be a way of protecting yourself from judgment from others. Like I said previously, from people perceiving you as being weak in some way. It can feel really challenging to express to others that you are struggling, and so that’s what can keep All of these masks in place, the mask of appearing calm on the outside, the mask of perfectionism, the mask of busyness and productivity, and the mask of keeping yourself at a distance from others and preventing people from getting too close.

All of these masks. are a form of protecting yourself, a form of avoiding potentially negative consequences and vulnerability because that vulnerability is very uncomfortable. It’s hard to admit that you’re struggling, that you need help, that you don’t have it all together all the time because we want to be perceived as super people.

You know, we want to be perceived as being able to do it all and never faltering. And if we do, then it means that we are inherently flawed in some way. But this is not the reality. And so there are things that you can do if you resonate with one or more or all of these masks, you are not alone. So there are things that can be done to help you to tear down these walls.

And that doesn’t mean completely exposing yourself and completely sharing. all of your biggest vulnerabilities and fears with everybody around you, but it’s doing it in a way that feels authentic and comfortable for you, where you can gradually start to remove these masks and be more of your authentic self.

Because oftentimes those masks are requiring a lot of energy to keep up. It’s requiring a lot of hyper awareness. to maintain these masks of appearing a certain way or presenting ourselves in a certain way to others. And so if you’re in this place and you’re feeling exhausted at the end of the work day from putting on this mask of perfectionism or putting on this mask of busyness or whatever other mask you’re wearing, that’s happening for a reason because you’re actually requiring and taking energy to keep that mask up to just prevent yourself from allowing your true thoughts and feelings to come through because there’s so much fear related to and associated with that.

So the first step to tearing down and taking off these masks is acknowledging that you’re even wearing them in the first place. Many times they can become so automatic, so much a part of who you are, you might not even realize that you’re doing it. So the first step is recognizing it, acknowledging it, becoming aware of it, noticing it when the mask comes up, noticing if when you go into work during the workday, you feel like you need to be on guard or be protecting yourself in some way and recognize if this is warranted, or if this is just something that you have been doing out of habit or out of fear.

And once you have recognized it, then you can start to take small steps to help you to remove the mask. And so that means being more vulnerable with people that you feel comfortable with or people that you trust. You don’t have to lay it all out with your co workers and tell them, I have high functioning anxiety and this is.

What’s happening and this is why if you feel comfortable doing that, then great, that’s excellent. But that’s not something that’s necessary for everybody to do and not something that many people feel comfortable with. So it can really help to start with the people that are closest to you. Maybe it’s a partner, maybe it is a friend or a family member, maybe it is a therapist or a coach, somebody that.

You can be open with and share, okay, this is what’s going on in my mind. This is how I’ve been feeling. This is what’s going on for me. Maybe it’s sharing it in a community. So I have a free community for high achievers with high functioning anxiety on Facebook, where you can join us and learn more and share more and.

have a shared experience. You can learn more and join us by going to calmlycoping. com group and I also have a private paid community where we have conversations about how high functioning anxiety shows up. You can get more education and training around it and that is the calm and ambitious community that you can learn more by going to So regardless of whether you choose to join these communities or not, find a way that works for you personally. that you can start to recognize and be more open with your experience, whether you choose to label it and tell people, I have high functioning anxiety, or whether you just choose to say, I struggle with perfectionism sometimes, or I’m really hard on myself, or I worry about these bad things happening, whatever that looks like for you, whatever language feels best for you.

It’s all about. being more open because vulnerability can help you to realize that it’s not necessary to constantly be on guard. So I encourage you to reflect on your own mask, how it’s showing up for you and small steps that you can do to start to recognize the mask when it’s showing up and peel back those layers as you feel comfortable doing so.

It’s going to feel uncomfortable in the beginning and that’s okay. Anytime you do something that feels uncomfortable, it is a way that you are progressing and moving forward. and growing. So those masks that show up with high function anxiety are the mask of appearing calm and competent on the outside.

The mask of perfectionism and having it all together. The mask of busyness and productivity and always needing to be accomplishing something. And the mask of avoiding getting too close to people and keeping up your guard from authentic connection. If you’re looking for more support with High Functioning Anxiety, you can learn more about my services and products in the description or in the show notes if you’re listening to the podcast.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic. What does your High Functioning Anxiety mask look like? Let me know if you are watching on YouTube by leaving a comment or if you’re listening on Spotify by leaving an answer to the question for this episode. And while you wait for the next episode, I have other episodes about calming your mind, creating work life balance, and feeling more confident from within.

I think this episode on the two sides battling within high functioning anxiety is a great episode for you to check out next. Thank you so much for tuning in today, and until next time, be calm. Thanks so much for listening. If you like what you heard, please share this episode with a friend, and please subscribe and leave me a review on iTunes.

Also, remember to check me out online at CalmlyCoping. com and connect with me on Instagram @TatianaGLPC. All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own mental health provider. Please consult a licensed mental health professional for all individual questions and issues.

Till next time, I’m Tati, and this has been Calmly Coping.

Until next time…

Be Calm,


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Hey, I'm Tati!

I believe that everybody deserves to live a calm, fulfilling life. My hope is to inspire high achievers to stop fear from running their lives and start putting their needs first.

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