Have you seen the commercial, I’m not even sure what product is being sold, where two people sit down to dinner? It is a date. And the woman says, “I made plans for later in case this doesn’t pan out.” And the man smiles and says, “So did I.” The background voice says something along the lines about how refreshing it would be if everything was as up front as whatever item is being sold.
I have been thinking about facades a lot lately. It’s like the scene in the movie the Wizard of Oz. “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.” The “wizard” is a gigantic floating head that speaks with thunder and lightning. Toto, the dog, uses his nose to sniff out and “unmask” the man behind the curtain, who just happens to be a magician that blew into Oz in a hot air balloon. We may not be using the theatrics of the “Wizard” but there are faces we put on in the different areas of our lives and roles we play with certain people.
I want you to really think about this idea for a moment. Are you different when you are at work? Do you behave differently when you are with your family? What about when you are around people you don’t know? Do you have close friends that see a different side of you than your family or co-workers?
I think it is a rare person that remains the same no matter who they are around. I don’t necessarily see behaving differently in different situations as a bad thing. Think about the chameleon in nature that changes colors with its surroundings in order for it to avoid predators. Does the human animal have subtle shifts in personality in order to survive in different social situations?
One of the ways in which humans develop as species are by mimicking the behavior of other humans. Children learn about social interactions by watching their parents. As we get older we begin to emulate our peer groups and those that we admire. Where and how you grow up is a determining factor in how you are or will be as a person.
The following is a poem about masks:
Cloak and Mask by D. Eric Hanson
The veil that hides our battered selves from view
The masks and veils that we wear are not just to hide pain. They are also used to hide parts of ourselves that we are afraid to share with others. And there is good reason for this behavior. Have you ever shared something with someone you thought would be supportive of you and they are not?
While in art school, I told a classmate who I thought of as a close and supportive friend that I also wrote short stories. This person responded positively and asked to read some of my work. So the next day I brought her the two that I thought were the best. I waited anxiously for several days for her to respond. When she finally did…. she handed me the stories and told me to stick to drawing and painting. I ripped up my stories and didn’t write a fictional short story again until fifteen years later. Other than at that art school, for that brief period of time, we never remained friends. The point here is not her critique. The point is that I trusted the wrong person at the wrong time with my short stories.
Just as we are all unique and have different abilities and life experiences, we are not going to be all things to all people, all of the time. There are certain people in our lives who are allowed to see behind the mask. And other relationships where you never remove the mask. And that is okay. The challenge is determining who we can truly be ourselves with and who we need to wear masks for.