We all have different personalities in that our traits (so called qualities and flaws) appear more or less throughout our daily interactions with other people. In this sense we are all unique. But we all share something in common and this is really what I want to talk about. It is that we all wear a mask. Actually we wear several masks, and each of these masks evolves over time according to our learnings, new experiences and changing circumstances.
Who you think you are, the voice in your head, is not what other people think of you. Fact. Yes, you may be close to it at times, mostly with very close friends or family members, but even then, you will only ever know what they think of you based on what they accept to tell you, and distorted by language and the meaning of the words they use (different to yours). Just like you may think you know someone really well and then out of the blue they do something you would have never expected them to be capable of. Hopefully you are astute enough to know that what you think of someone else, in terms of identity, is not what they think of themselves. There is a simple test to assess that, if you want: go and tell someone who they are according to you, and see how they react. I would bet that it won’t be fully aligned with their own way of thinking about themselves.
We all wear masks, all the time, and I believe the way we wear them is the cause of most of the useless suffering we endure. The anxiety and insecurities experienced by many people are only a result of a dramatic mismatch between self-esteem and confidence: precisely the gap between our inner self and the mask we project.
Why do we feel the need to project a certain version of ourselves, built mostly unconsciously through virtual fictions, cultural norms and fossilised educational systems? This is what is responsible for most of our pain. Your boss is not responsible, your partner is not responsible, your parents are not responsible. The only real responsible of your pain is your mask, because what happens in life highlights to you, over and over again, the gap that exists between what you strive to project to others, and what you actually really are. We are all the same. At birth, we inherently possess all qualities and all flaws. We then differ in life because we learn to project different masks.
I believe the awakening, and the true relief that comes with this understanding (at an experiential level), lies in re-aligning the mask with the self. We cannot not wear a mask, it is part of interacting with other human beings. We must project something which is a part of us. But the key lies in wearing a mask that is as close and true as possible to the essence of our being (the idea of what our self is). What is important to you, genuinely, must be congruent with what you project. The more aligned you are, and this includes being honest to other people about it, the narrower the gap between your fantasies and reality. The more aligned you are, the more congruent you will appear to other people and the more they will appreciate you for it. Alignment and congruence will improve your communication and increase the quality of your life.
Incidently, a fantastic side effect will be your capacity to be more open and tolerant with regards to other people’s behaviour, because you will know where they are coming from. You can help them. You can tell them about the mask. Beyond that, the choice is theirs.