When we hide behind masks or mirror the personalities of others, we trap ourselves in a “looking-glass” world, where we are destined to never become our authentic selves–our True Self. At some point in your life, like it or not, you wind up wearing a mask–a false face that you put out to the world that isn’t really yours–or becoming a mirror–taking on the personality traits of those around you. Maybe you do it to fit in; maybe you do it because you feel that the real you won’t suffice, or please the people around you; maybe you do it because someone else in your life (a mother, a father, a mentor; a friend) imposes it upon you because it is what is “expected” of you (as their child, student, friend). Regardless of why, the fact remains that at some point, we all do it.
Most mask-wearing and personality-mirroring goes back to a seemingly simple question: “What will people think of me?” Now, that may be a question that you actively ask yourself, or it may be a question that people around you (mothers, fathers, mentors; friends) keep asking of you. Either way, the question gets asked, and for whatever reason, the simplest answer seems to be to don a mask or be a mirror.
What do these behaviors look like–wearing masks and mirroring? The masks we wear that cover up the “real us” are as myriad as those one sees in a Mardi Gras parade, or at Carnavale in Venice. Each is especially designed for whomever you’re attempting to please at that particular moment. If you’re really the little Goth girl and pagan attempting to fit in amidst a gang of Southern Rednecks, it probably takes the outward appearance of a t-shirt and jeans, and a sudden hankering for Classic Rock (because at least that’s easier to stomach than Conway Twitty). It goes deeper than the clothes you wear or the music you listen to in public, though. That wardrobe and sudden change in musical taste is accompanied by what you do and don’t talk about in certain circles–and by this, I don’t just mean the usual there are certain people with whom you don’t discuss religion or politics! What I mean is that there are entire areas of who you really are that you simply pretend don’t exist once you’ve donned the mask. Suddenly, bisexual Goth girl is the devoted heterosexual, for example; pagan Goth girl is a Jesus freak; paranormal-involved-and-interested Goth girl is suddenly a psychic brick. This is where mirroring enters the picture. Of course we all adopt a certain amount of the personality traits of the people we hang out with on a regular basis (picking up catch-phrases, common parlance; that sort of thing–little quirks of another person’s personality that actually integrate with yours, and become a part of you just as much as that person or those people are a part of your life and your heart), but the mirroring I’m talking about here is rather different from that. The mirroring I’m talking about here is decidedly fake–i.e., unlike what I just explained, this particular mirroring in no way, shape, form, or fashion actually integrates with your true personality. In fact, it may go against the grain so much that it actually hurts when you do it, but it’s viewed as necessary, so you do it anyway! In this form of mirroring, you begin to adopt the personality traits of whomever it is that led you into this circle (in which you decidedly don’t fit in!) in the first place, because you know that person fits, so if you emulate them, so will you. Maybe the little Goth girl has followed someone who puts across the personality of the demure Southern Belle into this Redneck dive, so she begins to mirror that demure-ness; that Southern Belle-ness, even though it couldn’t be further from the truth of who she really is!
Of course, there is a certain amount of “when in Rome, do as the Romans do” which we must do in life in order to not feel like a total fish out of water in certain situations we might be placed in. But we must be very careful that the “when in Rome, do as the Romans do” attitude doesn’t become a trap that we fall into–a trap that eclipses your authentic you. Living a lie like that not only ultimately damages you, but it eventually will damage your relationships with other people as well, as they come to realize what a complete fake you actually are.
Ultimately, both masks and mirrors come down to questions of self worth. The lower your self worth, the more likely you are to be ready, willing, and able to don a mask and/or become a mirror. What is self worth, you ask? Basically, it is respect for and a favorable opinion of one’s self. It is not the same thing as self esteem, although the two things are also not mutually exclusive from one another. You can actually have a pretty high self esteem (opinion of how you look), and a very low self worth. On the flip side of that, if your self esteem is in the toilet, your self worth is more than likely swimming there right alongside it–hence my saying the two are not mutually exclusive from one another. Self worth, basically, is being not only perfectly okay with who you really are (comfortable in your own skin, and by skin, I don’t just mean this shell you’re walking around in right now; I mean your soul; the luminous being within’s skin), but being respectful of who you really are as well. What does that mean? That means you are unwilling to compromise who that is for anyone, including you!
If you are living a lie, the chances are grand that your self worth is in the toilet. How two-faced (or even three- or four-faced) are you? Are you one person with your family, another person with your friends, and yet another person at the Country Club? Are you “doing as the Romans do” to the point that the Romans don’t know who the hell you are anymore, and neither do you? Maybe even to the point that the “Romans” are strongly considering coming after you with pitchforks like an angry mob because they’ve realized there is a total fake in their midst? Are you wearing the mask and/or mirroring others to the point that you find that half the words that come out of your mouth are actually bald-faced lies at this point? Then it’s definitely time to check your self worth!
How do you feel when it’s just you and you? Do you dread being alone, to the point that you’ll do almost anything (including watching stupid things on television just to have the background noise) to drown out the you of it all? Do you constantly need to be the center of attention (to the degree that you always know more, can do more, can do it better than anybody else or constantly create drama that puts you at that center when you’re not already there)? Do you have issues with needing to control other people in your life (this also goes back to the whole center of attention thing)? All of these are signs of a faltering self worth.
You desperately need a date with you–sans masks and a mirror! Planning a date with yourself may sound like the most ludicrous idea in the universe, but trust me, it works. Only when you spend some time with you will you be able to figure out what you don’t like about you so much that you’re willing to do anything to avoid yourself! This will also give you an opportunity to listen to some of the feedback that’s raging through your head from the outside world–those folks who actively encourage you to don masks and be a mirror–and decide how much of it you’re actually willing to listen to anymore. Your you-date may be something as simple as a bubble bath alone, or it may be a day spent shopping or reading or birdwatching, or even just sitting and thinking. Whatever it is, you need to do it, and you need to do it ASAP!
Once you’ve got you all to yourself, you might want to practice a different sort of mirroring–instead of being one, look into your own! (No, I don’t mean literally stand in front of a mirror and stare at yourself, although if that works for you, by all means, go for it!) Imagine yourself as someone you’re just getting to know (because, honestly, that might actually be the truth). If you just met this person out in the real world, why wouldn’t you want to hang out with them and be their friend? What is so grating about their personality that you avoid them at all costs? What are the good things, that made you give them a chance in the first place? Those grating things are things you should seriously consider losing; getting rid of, once and for all (now, that might mean going over some rather painful personal baggage, so be warned, but it’s worth it, I promise!). And those good things–focus on those; build them up; foster them. Most importantly, put them out there for the world to see, rather than hiding them behind masks and mirrors!
Most people would agree that there is nothing worse in this life than fake people. Even when we are trapped in a cycle of being fake ourselves, we still hate it when other people are fakes to us! Take off the mask; shatter the mirror; be authentically you!