Tag Archives: Introspection

The Masks We Wear

People are often said to have a dual nature, which by itself means little, and the context varies widely. In a very basic way it is true, but duality is just the beginning. In reality our natures are multifaceted.

We act one way with our friends, another way at work, another way with our family, another way with our love interests, and a whole different way completely when alone. Some facets line up more congruously than others, but they all have their discrepancies.

So when we try define ourselves which “self” do we use? Which is the truest self? Or is it bits and pieces from each? I have read more than once that the quality humans find most attractive is symmetry. While that was referring to how we perceive beauty in people, is there a way we can attain more symmetry in our lives?

In truth, all of these parts can be a part of one whole, well grounded, “symmetrical” person whose core is solid and recognizable regardless of which facet is peered through. A lofty and difficult goal to achieve. One which straying from is all too easy when the course changes toward dangerous waters are incremental and sometimes imperceptible.

Continuing on this course, changing masks throughout life to be increasingly different people, wears on an individual. The bigger the differences, the more taxing it is. It comes from the little lies told to make all the pieces seem to fit nicely together; we want to feel like our personality, spanned across our entire lives, is completely congruous with itself. The greater the disparity, the greater the desperation to connect nonexistent dots.

James Ensor Self-Portrait with Masks (1899)

The masks serve purposes, but we can be haunted by them.

In fact, we are best at believing our own lies. Our need for that congruity is so great that despite having functioning memories, we will begin to believe those little lies as they multiply.

The range of these lies is immense. Their power immeasurable in our lives and the lives of those around us. They can make you believe something about someone else to keep your own version of yourself intact in your mind. Within your consciousness that idea or belief about another person becomes fact. How much influence do you have over that person? Maybe they begin to believe the revisionism as well.

This insidious path all begins with a person trying to keep their own record of themselves straight. It’s more common that you might think; it has played out in some way in nearly every relationship of any type.

I speak from what some may consider extreme personal experience—extreme, but not unique. The function or benefit this has served in my life is being made aware of it. We all have to wear different masks at different points in our life; that’s the nature of it. It should be noted that this is not all bad, and not everything need be made to meet up. The challenge in that regard is accepting that fact.

While I do not know if greater congruity in and of itself can create happiness, I know without a doubt that the lack of it can create unhappiness.