The official student media of Blue Valley Northwest High School


The official student media of Blue Valley Northwest High School


The official student media of Blue Valley Northwest High School


The masks we wear

Altering the way you act in different environments can be a common phenomenon.
Lila Vancrum
Senior Lillian Flood described how she often alters her personality when in certain environments. “I would say I’m someone who likes to fit in wherever I am,” Flood said. “I just kind of mold to the conversation and figure out who I need to be in a situation.”

When around different groups of people, senior Lillian Flood said she notices her personality tends to fluctuate. For her, this can often be exhausting. Although adapting to our surroundings is basic human nature, the line starts to blur when one feels they can not showcase their authentic character.

Completely altering one’s personality in front of certain people can be described as putting up a personality mask, and according to BVNW’s psychology teacher Heidi Gipple, doing so can have consequences.

“I think that anybody who feels like they can’t be forthcoming with who they are is going to have some trouble with their mental health and maybe their identity in general,” Gipple said. “They might start to question some things and [wonder] ‘Is this really who I am?’” 

Flood expressed how she allows herself to be more outgoing and open in the theater environment. However, when she is with people that she sees solely at school, she behaves more relaxed and less extravagant.

“At school, I definitely feel more mellow, more toned down. But when I’m in theater [class], I’m vibrant and exuberant and I’ve got all this energy,” Flood said. “And then [during] the school day, I’m kind of falling asleep in my chair. At home, I definitely feel like I’m a little bit more mellow too.”

Flood noted how her personality will often change to fit the specific environment.

“I would say I’m someone who likes to fit in wherever I am. I just kind of mold to the conversation and figure out who I need to be in a situation. But when I’m at theater, I never have to do that,” Flood said. 

Flood’s friend, senior Casey Clark, observes how Flood’s personality changes when interacting with different groups of people. He agreed that Flood’s authentic self comes to light in the theater environment, rather than other environments.

“She’s just herself [in theater class] and she’s very fun and her personality shines through,” Clark said. “She’s more professional and reserved in her other classes. She just focuses on her schoolwork.”

Likewise, senior Sophia Paduano is involved in drama club and repertory theater and expressed feelings similar to Flood’s. She included how she feels free on stage, and how theater feels like a different world.

Outside of the theater environment, however, Paduano spends the majority of her time focused on swimming, since she is a national-level swimmer. In the spring of 2023, Paduano placed first in the 100-yard backstroke at the 2023 Girls State Swimming & Diving Meet. She practices nine times a week, before and after school some days, and is training to make Olympic Trials cuts. Paduano is committed to the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana on a swimming scholarship.

Paduano said she has several different friend groups within each activity. But instead of feeling pressure to change the way she acts to fit in, Paduano feels confident in herself no matter who she is hanging out with. 

“I’ve gotten to the point where I’ve learned to accept I have a different personality than a lot of other people,” Paduano said. “If my friends can’t accept that, I’m not going to change it for them.” 

But this was not always the case, according to Paduano. She said she used to let other people’s negative opinions about her personality affect how she portrayed herself. 

“I used to always want to try to fit in. I didn’t want to draw any attention to myself because when I would be loud, talkative, or very extroverted, somebody would shame me for that,” Paduano said. “I’ve learned to not care about how other people view [me and] I’m not going to try to fit into somebody else’s standard.”

Similarly, sophomore Olivia Urasma is involved in two distinctly different activities, marching band and cheerleading. Urasma said she enjoys both activities since they both allow her to challenge herself. 

“Cheer is really fun. It’s a really good experience. I love going and seeing everyone and learning new things,” Urasma said. “[And for band], since it’s in the morning, I’m pretty tired. But it’s still a lot of fun.”

However, Urasma said she has made more friends through cheerleading, rather than band. Due to this, she said she is more engaged around her cheerleading peers and tends to be quieter in the band environment. 

Other than being less talkative, Urasma said she believes she does not change how she acts in front of the two different groups of people. No one should alter themselves just because they are in a new environment, Urasma said. 

“If you stay the same, you let people see who you are. And if you change, I feel like you might not enjoy your time as much, because you’re trying to be someone else,” she said.

“If you stay the same, you let people see who you are. And if you change, I feel like you might not enjoy your time as much, because you’re trying to be someone else,” she said.

— Olivia Urasma

The reason why people feel the need to change themselves is because psychologically, we feel the need to fit in, according to Gipple. 

“I think that for the most part, when we are in groups of people, it makes us feel safer to conform. It’s this idea of herd mentality,” Gipple said. “We might emulate other people’s behaviors because it makes us feel better when we fit in with the crowd. When we’re going against the grain, it tends to make us feel a little uncomfortable.”

Regarding her personality, Flood expressed how it would be hard to suddenly change the way she acts at school and display the super outgoing attitude that she has in the theater environment.

“I’ve set myself up to be someone at school, and around [my school friends]. At this point, I just feel like I need to keep that going,” Flood said.

Furthermore, Flood explained that behaving how she does in the theater environment, while in the school environment, would be quite a shock for those around her.

“Like one day just waking up and being who I am all the time would probably [make some people think] ‘Wait, who is this girl?’” Flood said.

Paduano, however, said she enjoys sharing theater with her other, non-theater friends.

“My swim team here, and even outside of school, they’re all very supportive of [me],” Paduano said. “They all came to see my show, my parents came to see my show and it was a little eye-opening to see how many people supported a different side of me that I don’t show sometimes.”

Alternating personalities while in different surroundings may not be exclusive to just students. Science teacher Nanet Sula goes from teaching chemistry at BVNW, to leading workout groups at her gym, Genesis.

While Sula said she does not notice any significant differences in her personality, she does feel a sense of confidence while leading workouts at Genesis that she does not feel at BVNW. She explained that giving a speech in front of a large group of teachers would be very intimidating, but working out in front of a small crowd does not bother her.

“I tend to be more of an introvert. So for me to get up and present in front of the entire staff at Northwest on a professional development day would really make me nervous,” Sula said. Maybe I just tune it out [at Genesis] and just do my own workout while I’m leading them [which makes me less intimidated].

Sula persisted that certain situations make it inevitable for people to alter their “true” personality. For example, she said on days that she is tired, she may act more mellow, but that does not mean she is deliberately changing her personality.

“I think maybe it’s just the situation that I’m put into where it’s automatically changed,” Sula said.

For Gipple, she admitted that most adults conform in order to fit in, and she even notices how she puts up a mask in different situations. 

“I definitely feel like I have my school mask, my outside-of-school mask, and I’m also married so I have my wife mask, and when I see my parents I have my daughter mask,” Gipple said. “I still don’t even know who I am. I mean, I’m 28 years old, and I still find myself not wanting to be the odd man out.” 

The difference between most adults and students, Gipple acknowledged, is that most high schoolers have not discovered their true identity and, therefore, are not aware of their personality changes.

“[For me] I think ‘Well, this is who I am,’ and I will find a group of people that I kind of fit in with,” Gipple said. “Whereas for you guys, I think [students wonder] ‘Well, who am I? And can I get those answers from my peers?’”

Gipple explained how in our society, it is very normal for our peers around us to affect our everyday actions, and no one should be shocked that most people want to fit in.

“We’re surrounded by people all the time, and we know how much others influence our behavior,” Gipple said. 

Although Sula understands the reason people tend to put up personality masks around certain groups, she said it is important to showcase your true self around the people you trust.

“If you’re around people who are either your true friends or who care about you, you can be yourself,” Sula said “I think as long as you feel comfortable and safe in the situation, you should act the way you feel best.”

No one should be ashamed of adhering to those around us, according to Gipple, as she said it is a very common human behavior.

“I think we think it’s so taboo to conform, but it’s really not. It is a very normal, natural, human experience,” Gipple said. “Conformity is a crazy thing.”

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About the Contributors
Hannah Rakolta, Copy Editor
Hannah Rakolta is a senior and Copy Editor for “The Express.” This is her third year on staff as a writer. Outside of newspaper, Hannah is involved in NHS, as well as Quill and Scroll. Hannah enjoys playing golf, going on hikes, and spending time with her friends and her family. Hannah’s dream places to visit are Italy and Greece. She is so excited to be an editor and be a senior!
Maggie Dahl, Writer
Maggie is a sophomore and a first year staff member for “The Express”. Outside of newspaper, she will be involved in Girls Swim & Dive this spring. In her free time she swims for the Kansas City Blazers. Maggie also enjoys baking and reading. She is excited to see what her first year with “The Express” has in store for her!
Lila Vancrum, Editor-In-Chief
​​Lila Vancrum is a senior and Editor-In-Chief for “The Express.” This is her third year on staff, previously serving as a photographer and photo editor. Outside of newspaper, Lila is involved in girl’s soccer, KAY Club, Team Up for St. Jude’s, NHS and Quill & Scroll. In her free time she enjoys going out to eat, hanging out with friends and binging TV shows, her favorites include “One Tree Hill” and “Pretty Little Liars.” Lila is excited to take on the role of being an Editor-In-Chief and hopes to improve the photography for stories and social media. 
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