The self is a tricky thing to accomplish. Who we are is signified by a seemingly infinite number of factors: our physical appearance, the groups we belong to, the events we attend, the things that we say, how we say the things that we say, the friends that we keep, the work that we do, the way that we spend our leisure time, the amount of leisure time we allow ourselves etc. Each of these factors reflects the decisions that social actors have to make about who they are, and about the lines of action they will take in order to be defined in a particular way. In short, social actors are required to engage in significant amounts of “identity work”.
This work, however, must remain hidden. The “catch” in constructing a self that will be accepted by others, is that the self must come across as authentic. The self must appear to be spontaneous, uncalculated, and effortless. Said differently, identity work must remain invisible, it must be strictly relegated to the backstage (Goffman 1959).