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The Masks We Wear

Everyday, I put on a mask. I pick my clothes; I do my hair. I make a conscious choice of what I will say, depending on the situation. I envision what I want people to see, and it is my intent to be perceived that way. I believe that we are not the masks we wear; that these are only fronts made for the purpose of hiding our true nature. Everyone’s mask is different; they vary in degrees of opacity, or how close the mask is to the person’s true nature. In my case, I would estimate that my mask is pretty opaque, as is most people’s. Here’s why.

I think that, most of the time, what we say and do, we say and do for a purpose. I know cause and effect and I use it to help me on my quest; the quest that everyone shares: our quest to change ourselves. If I were to isolate myself, then I would go into my isolation understanding that people may perceive me as unfriendly, or mean, or any number of things. Or if I was to seek to please, then I would likely interact in a way that would create a reaction that I know is positive. I acquire this information from experience.

Part of the definition of personality is “the visible aspect of one’s character as it impresses others” (Dictionary.com). According to this, I am not my personality. My personality would be what I show others, not necessarily how they perceive me through it, but the embodiment of what I strive to be.

The other part of me is my true nature. I believe that my true nature is glimpsed in certain unspoken thoughts, the remarks bitten back, the things blurted without contemplation.

One may say that if this is true, than my true nature is often the opposite of everything I want to be. I agree. From my personal experience, things blurted without prior thought are generally regretted. Often, they are displays of cowardice, hurtful to others, or simply blunt.

In my interview with my father, Russ, he mentioned, “Yeah, I do that all the time. What I said to mom last night; she gave me a hard time about bringing my iPad to the movie, and I told her she was hypocritical. And I regretted saying that, because it was hurtful, and that was not my intention.”

So it was not my father’s conscious intention, but one from his true nature. He agrees that the way he acted was not how he wanted to be perceived.

But we can’t put all the blame of our unwanted remarks on our true nature; I think that sometimes they are simply mistakes in our striving to be perceived in a certain way. Or if we want to be portrayed that way, then perhaps they are said purposely.

In a book I read, The Happiness Hypothesis, the author creates a metaphor in which our true nature is the elephant, while what we try to be perceived as, our “super ego,” as he refers to it, is the rider.

My rider is my conscious, logical mind. It is my personality, as I defined it, not including the outside influence of my true nature. My rider tries to control the elephant and make it do what my logical self wants. This is sometimes very hard.

My elephant is not easily subdued. It constitutes my animal instincts, the same instincts passed down through my ancestors. Dogs and cats carry the same instincts, except they don’t have a rider to control them.

To go along with this thinking, my true nature, and everyone else’s, must be much darker and less noble that I would want to believe. It’s something that I would want to conceal, behind a mask. But I do this already.

So in a backwards way, the people who wear much more transparent masks, those who succumb to their animal instincts are the most genuine of us all. Maybe they believe they have nothing to hide. Or maybe they’ve just given up.

These masks must be a good thing. They give me –and others- a purpose. It helps me put the elephant aside, or at least subdue it, to make way for higher thinking. This higher thinking across the human race has helped us evolve. It must have been in our best interest to tame the beast, otherwise we never would have done it. It is the requirement of evolution.

True nature can’t ever be lost. It will always be an influence on every decision we make. No matter how far we bury it, or hide it behind our masks, it will shine through our mistakes or unforeseen actions. One would have to be perfect to control one’s every move, and no one is perfect.

One may argue that if one pretends to be something one is not, eventually this play-acting will influence one’s thoughts. Sure it will influence my thoughts, but my thoughts are only the deepest layer of my personality. I may not show them to others as much, but they are part of my conscious, logical mind; my rider.

So, together, I am both my true nature and what I do when I try to be perceived in a certain way. When people try to become a new person, only their personalities change. Their true nature will stay the same, because it cannot easily be changed by outside influences. This second mask will only bury it deeper than before, which is what the human race has been doing for centuries.

To jump back to my opacity theory, my mask is more opaque because I don’t want to be perceived as someone who yields to those instincts. I don’t want people to think that I am mean or psychopathic. But I can only hope my mask is believable enough and people don’t see my true nature as I have defined it, because, like other humans, I feel that my instincts are too often not how I want to be perceived.

We all put on a front, no matter how believable it is. And the only way for me or others to find out if their masks are working would be to demote ourselves to the level of asking other human beings.



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