“People seldom change. Only their masks do. It is only our perception of them and the perception they have of themselves that actually change” -Shannon L. Alder-
It is very seldom that you will ever see anyone without their mask on or not hiding behind a false identity. It is likely that a large majority of us never even see ourselves without a mask. Here, we will discuss the many masks of false identity and how we all hide at one point or another, denying our true selves. Why do we hide and what are we hiding from?
This discussion will not stray too far from what we have talked about in the last 3 posts. ‘Mask’ is simply just another word for ‘identity’ when used in the context of this discussion. A mask is only a cover or shield allowing us to hide from others and ourselves. It is an identity that, in essence, is an illusion of our true self-image, our conscious self-image. We wear masks for many different reasons and all are not intended to be deceptive. Many times, the mask that others may see is one that we, ourselves, are not even aware of. It may stem from a previous experience, fear or just the way we have been conditioned by the world.
“Sometimes it’s not the people who change, it’s the mask that falls off”
Experiences are probably the greatest creator of masks and false identities. When we have an experience, whether it is positive or negative, our conscious mind is in overdrive developing an image that makes sense even if it is an illusion. This is how our left-brain consciousness works by interpreting current data as well as past data and memories to create a scenario that seems appropriate. Therefore, we trust that image because, well, it all makes sense and at this point, we decide which mask we should wear. If the experience resulted in fear, our mask could be an identity that would protect us from a similar experience in the future. On the contrary, if the experience was enjoyable, we may start wearing a mask that would encourage future experiences similar to that one. Either way, it is still a mask, an identity created by the left-brain consciousness in order to encourage or avoid a future occurrence of the same magnitude.
Mindfulness Gift: Rustic Jar Full of Daily Mindful tasks and Challenges.
Fear is an emotion we have all experienced and it is a natural human instinct to avoid the things and situations that cause us to be afraid. The emotion of fear has a very extended range from fear of failure to fear of harm or death. To the individual experiencing the fear, it is very real and intimidating no matter how small it may be to someone else. Fear is a powerful energy causing a person to withdraw, run away, fight and intentionally harm others. Therefore it makes sense why a person would want to avoid fear at all costs, even if it means wearing a mask.
One of the greatest self-destructive fears that many of us have is the fear of ourselves. On one end we are afraid of our inner self and getting to know the person we truly are which is primarily a fear of the unknown. On the other end, we fear that the exposure of our true self would cause others to not like us and reject us. This type of fear has become very dominant with the rise in social media and feeling the necessity to be liked. We consciously create an image or a profile that invites others to be our friend and want to know more about us. This type of mask can be one of the most dangerous and damaging masks of all. We become so desperate to be liked by others that we begin to live and act out the image we created, sometimes to a point that we believe it is truly who we are.
There are many more different masks that we all wear for different reasons and not all masks are wrong or destructive. For example, many of us may wear a mask to shield a part of ourselves in order to protect someone else. We wear a mask to hide internal pain to avoid exposing others to the same pain. Many people suffer from deep hurts and depression but must wear a mask in public for a job or career.
We may never live in a society where we are all able to shed the many masks we wear daily. Awareness of the existence of masks is the first step to being able to remove it from our true identity. Practicing mindfulness is a proven process to become aware of the masks and false identities we all have. Getting to know your true self is the most satisfying and valuable friendship you could ever have.