Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Behind the mask

Have you ever looked behind your mask and found the real "you"?

When I ask people this question most ask "what mask?" and say they never wear masks.  They are deluding themselves.  We all wear masks.

We learn from an early age that we need to present a certain image to the world around us.  Maybe that is the image of an obedient boy or girl, who is really not quite as obedient as the mask suggests.  Maybe it is a mask that makes us less noticeable to the school bully and hopefully therefore allows us to avoid being bullied too much.  Or even the mask of a bully who doesn't want others to notice how vulnerable he or she is.

But we do not permanently wear the same mask.  Again, as a child you probably displayed a different mask to your parents than the one you displayed to your brothers and sisters if you had any.  A different mask to your teachers than to your school friends.  A different mask to your group of friends than to those in other groups.

As an adult you still have a whole series of masks.  One you show your boss at work.  Another you show your spouse.  And yet another you show your children.  You take on different personalities with those different masks.  The personality of a mother or father.  The personality of a loving spouse.  The personality of a loyal employee.  There is, in fact, a whole series of things that change in you as you assume each mask.  How an employee, spouse, or parent should behave, what they should say, how they should think, what they should believe.  Some of the beliefs associated with the mask are absolutely the right thing.  Many are not - they are patterns you have learned from others, from what you have read, what you have been told, experiences you have had.

If you want to develop and evolve properly it is important that you first look behind the masks.  You need to find the real "you".  Once you have found that true personality you can then work on improving it and moving it in the direction you wish to go.  And you can then also analyse each of your masks, identifying whether they are needed at all once your personality has evolved, and if they are still needed identifying which aspects should still be there and which should not.

This is not as easy as it sounds.  It is actually a lifetime task.  But a very rewarding task which you will find brings improvements in your life and, hopefully, greater happiness as you progress.

One reason it is not that easy is the point I made right at the beginning of this article - the challenge of even recognizing you are wearing a mask.  Knowing that even when you are sat alone, thinking about your goals, motivating yourself to reach them, and checking they are aligned with the inner purpose of your life, knowing that even then you are wearing a mask which you have to remove in order to move forward properly.

Another reason is that we all wear masks under our masks.  A bit like a matryoshka doll, the Russian nesting doll, except in the case of the matryoshka each doll inside the other normally looks identical, whereas when you peel back your masks you will find the one underneath is a little different.

Take some time each day to meditate, opening up your personal matryoshka one mask or shell at a time.  Get to the inner "you" and find out what that "you" really wants out of life.  Until you do this, you will not be satisfied with what you achieve, as it does not reflect what you really wanted to achieve.

As you progress with this, also take a look at those masks you are removing.  Try to find out why they are there.  Perhaps they are necessary, but perhaps not.  If they are needed, then try to find out how they change your personality, the way you behave, even the way you think and what you believe.  Strip out of the mask everything that is not needed, and everything that you find is a betrayal of the real "you".

What you will almost certainly discover is that the real "you" is very different, much deeper than suggested by the masks, and probably a much nicer person.  The mask of the "Democrat" or the "Republican" for example if you are in the US, "Labour", "Liberal Deomcrat", "Green", "UKIP", "SNP" or "Conservative" (and forgive me if I left out your particular mask here) if you are in the UK.  Wherever in the world you are I am sure you can replace these political masks with ones more appropriate to your situation.  I am not saying do not be a Democrat or Republican.  Just be aware that you do not need to wear the Democrat or Republican mask, that you can vote for one or other party and even strongly believe in the stance of one or other party, but do not allow that party to create a mask for you that is not the real "you".  Putting this back over 150 years ago, there were Confederates and Unionists.  If you have watched the US ABC miniseries "North & South", then you may remember the characters and beliefs of George Hazard and Orry Main.  They each believed strongly in their own cause, one being a Confederate and the other a Unionist.  They each had good reasons for those beliefs, or at least they felt there were good reasons for them.  But "Unionist" or "Confederate" was not really the true George Hazard or Orry Main.  Underneath the masks were decent human beings who loved each other despite their very different political persuasions.  And underneath your mask too there is probably a much better human being than the one you are currently displaying.  Dive beneath all those masks and find that real "you".

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