Wearing Masks but not the Halloween Variety

It is sometimes said that we all wear masks of one sort or another. To get past the initial protective layer and really get to know someone often takes a long time. And sometimes we really never do get a peek at the things that are under a person's mask. Consider these excerpts from an article titled The Masks We Wear:
All are us have a variety of masks that each of us wears daily. These may be the identities that have been given to us, or ones that we have assumed over time.

As long as we recognize that what we wear is a mask we all are right. But when the mask becomes the seeming reality for us, then our troubles begin. We confuse the mask with the person, and if we are consummate enough actors, so do those around us. Gradually the mask becomes a trap, and we become the mask (as the performers did in the ancient Greek plays who would utter their lines while holding a mask in front of their faces).
What do I mean by wearing such a mask? Let's say you have a job in which you don't care for your boss at all, but you still need the job and want to keep it. Whenever the boss comes around you will be polite, probably smile, and say the proper things that you know your boss wants to hear. You are wearing a mask: the mask of the compliant worker.
We may also wear masks for our spouses; children; relatives. We may wear numerous masks within the course of a single day. And yet where is the real us? It is very easy to get lost amid a closet-full of masks.
The idea of confusing the mask with the person is an intriguing one. I think that many of us have had an experience where we thought that we knew someone and discovered by something they said or did that we did not know them very well. And I think that some of us are afraid of anyone really knowing "the real us". So we embrace the mask.

I liked the reference to the Greek performers. I was recently reminded that the root meaning of the word hypocrite embodied the idea of a person acting out a role. I think that many of us simply act in ways that we think people want us to act. In a sense we wear the masks that we think people want us to wear. It is interesting to note that people do not actually want us to wear masks but that we simply think they do. I think that most of us do not want people to wear masks. Most of us really want people to be themselves and not act a role.

When I think of taking off these sorts of masks I do not think it is as simply as removing a mask held in place by adhesive. I liken it more to a mime or a clown removing the makeup that comprises the mask. In a sense the mask has to be taken off in layers and sometimes a cleansing agent is required. Being the real you sometimes takes a lot of effort and time.


  1. Facebook allows us to perfect our masks. I know a few people who are jerks in real life, but on Facebook they paint themselves as saints.

    I remember when I was a teenager I was dating a girl who lived in a group home. We had a few meetings with the group home staff and she said I seemed like a different person in there. She thought it odd that I spoke to adults differently than I did my peers, for me it was just natural. I always felt perfectly comfortable talking to my friends parents and other adults. My girlfriend saw it as a mask, but to me it was just another mode of communication.

  2. Great point Mike! Sometimes when a different mode of communication is needed some can perceive it as something different.


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