We all wear masks so thoroughly, we think our masks are who we actually are. It takes an internal honesty to really look beneath the masks, and let's face it, most of us aren't that brave.
Last week I wrote about taking care of my little brothers. I love my brothers, and all the good things I said were true, but I was young. I resented the inflexibility of my responsibilities, but my caretaker role became so much of what I presented to the world I couldn't separate what I wanted from who I was. I got positive feedback from older people for being "good", and I presented myself that way until it became part of me.
Some people cover tender feelings with anger, I covered my anger with nice. Nobody wanted to see my anger because it's ugly. So I spent time being "good", then indulged in "bad" because there had to be an outlet for all of my less socially acceptable feelings.
Perhaps my situation was unusual because of my age, but many parents have written about similar feelings about their own children, but we don't like to talk about that stuff. Parents brag about their kids' accomplishments and show photos of the smiling little darlings. We have a societal image of what parents should be, and most parents wear the masks they've been assigned and/or assumed.
And that's just one of the masks people wear. We present ourselves in the most positive ways because we want others to like us, respect us, or have some other positive response. The "me" under all those masks hide from ourselves and anesthetize ourselves with chocolate, reality tv, road rage, affairs, and other coping techniques. We stuff feelings for a happy world, but that means that the less pretty feelings never get expressed or dealt with until people go to a psychologist to help untangle it or shoot themselves.
"To thine own self be true" is difficult and rewarding, but it takes some bravery to look in the mirror without the masks. I don't want to imply that I've mastered it either. I just think it's something to work at. I just let the words in the picture above come out in a random way, thinking about other people's masks, then had to look at these things again and see how many of them are in my own self image -- which isn't really the mask that I want to sell to myself.
“No man, for any considerable period, can wear one face to himself and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which may be the true.” ― Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter
“We all wear masks, and the time comes when we cannot remove them without removing some of our own skin.” ― André Berthiaume
“Don’t you, when strangers and friends come to call, straighten the cushions, kick the books under the bed and put away the letter you were writing? How many of us want any of us to see us as we really are? Isn’t the mirror hostile enough?” ― Jeanette Winterson
“Like icebergs, people normally expose only a small part of themselves, and generally just the part they wish to show.” ― Nikki Sex, Fate
“And I wasn’t playing a role – I was trying to be myself. But the harder I was striving, the more I was realizing that I had probably lost that ‘myself’ somewhere between two perfectly performed roles...” ― Simona Panova, Nightmarish Sacrifice
“It comes down to this: If you want to be seen, heard and understood in the most genuine way possible, be open to the possibility of vulnerability. Allow yourself to be open. I know it’s a scary place, a place very few people dare to venture, but just try it. Try moving the masks away and really looking at a person the next time they engaged in conversation with you.” ― Leigh Hershkovich