The Masks People Wear

We state as a matter of fact that we can never really know someone. It’s only when it dawns on you that you’re included in the context of that phrase – as the party that doesn’t really know – that you tend to become more attentive. Suddenly the phrase becomes an eye-opener.

Everyone wears a mask at one point in their lives. It’s inevitable. Some people wear masks year round. There’s the perfectionist, the know-it-all, the life of the party dude who craves attention, and the universally famous back-stabbing jerk. A classic mask is I’m-a-nice-guy, and the most cliched one is I’m-a-soft-and-delicate girl.

Some masks are more subtle though. Kids become irresistibly charming when they set their minds on getting something they want, or they can be a real pain and cry non-stop. We often put a fake smile on our faces and act like nothing is wrong. We hide behind a concerned face, and make people believe we’re listening.

Why do we wear those masks?

Why is it difficult for us to say what we want?

Why can’t we just be?

Are the masks imposed on us?

The most common explanation for wearing masks is self protection. We sense the need for shelter. Masks help us build our own defenses. They can give us power, or at least the illusion of power, at times when we feel powerless. Even an angry voice can elicit a tough exterior. Sometimes we wear a mask to shield ourselves from getting hurt. We’ve been proverbially attacked countless times from acts of deceit and betrayal.

We’re born into the world naked and exposed, totally vulnerable and dependent on people around us. Masks change appearances and disguise our weaknesses. With our mask, we forge a display of confidence. We claim to master skills to handle things, we don’t need anyone and we don’t need any help. We appear self reliant and we feel safe.

We also wear masks to hide flaws that embarrass us, and imperfections we’re ashamed of. We paint ourselves a prettier face to the world, covering up the true us out of fear. We fear rejection and we fear someone will make fun of us for what we believe, what we think or how we feel. We try to flaunt what we do not possess. We desperately try to fit in. The need to belong exerts pressure on us. We’re struggling with insecurities. A mask gives us an opportunity to become something more attractive. We pretend to be a make-believe version of our character, one with the right attitude and intellect. We relish the occasion to impress; especially on a crowd whose approval we yearn for. We like to think the mask is our truth; we revel in the temporal glee the mask affords us.

Some people wear masks to hide from themselves. They can never show their true side to anyone. From experiencing a history of withheld warmth and love, a bankruptcy of thoughts and feelings is their glaring characteristic. They have grown up to harbor negative beliefs about themselves, such as ” I’m not good enough” , “I’m stupid”, “I’m ugly” or “I’m a failure”. They keep their engraved beliefs hidden because they don’t want anyone to know. They build an emotional barrier. They make sure that nothing about them sparks interest in others to get to know them. They try to fade and become just another face in the crowd.

Then there are the affairs of the heart with our significant other. Many people feel compelled to wear masks with their partners. They cannot risk the loss and break up. They recall a few times when they dared to say the truth, and were often left with an awkward silence or an inane remark and a regret that they had not kept their mouths shut. Girls and guys alike often create an image of themselves that is far from the person they actually are. They put on a mask that shows their partner a different face, with an exceptional personality altogether. They feign interests. They play a part they dislike only to please and keep their partner. Their actions and words is all pretense. It may be out of love, but when it shapes the relationship it’s no longer sincere. Love is not faking your identity for someone. You’re trapped inside the mask. Some of us burn out from the effort of trying to maintain a facade. We end up missing out on real relationships. They either fall in love with the mask, or we don’t let them get close enough to see the real person hidden beneath the mask.

It’s easy to get lost amid a closet-full of masks. Where is the real us? For some of us the reality is the mask. It’s our persona. For others, the reality lies underneath. They prefer to keep it buried.

Which scenario is worse? Losing ourselves to the mask or not being able to cast it away? The bittersweet truth is that there may come a time when we cannot remove a mask without removing some of our own skin.