“The truth is, after so many years, you begin to lose more than just your appetite. You wear a mask for so long, you forget who you were beneath it.”
– Gordon Dietrich, V for Vendetta
Some time ago, I had a teacher who brought up the notion of masks. If I recall rightly, he’d heard someone else put forth the idea that everybody wears masks all the time, and he disagreed a little. He felt more that people had different masks, representing different sides of themselves, but that each mask was genuine. I have my own take on things. I say people have different sides, which we shift through by reflex or choice, and they are all honest and natural, but a mask is something else altogether.
A mask is a deliberate lie, carefully crafted and worn to either hide or reveal something of what lies beneath.
There are several types of masks, of course, and it’s debatable which of them is the most tragic to be worn.
Most stereotypically, the lie someone tells is that they are better than they are. They appear more virtuous, trustworthy, and caring. That tends to be either to take advantage of others or just to avoid recrimination from their neighbors.
Or maybe the lie is that they are worse than they are, that they don’t care. They may believe themselves to be worthless wastes of space, and want to push away the people who care about them, so they invite judgment instead of avoiding it.
Perhaps just as often, though, they simply conform to some expectation. They bury some interest, skill, or passion that they’re told is bad, useless, or a waste of time. Some deviant portion of themselves would not meet with approval, so they pretend it isn’t there.
In all three cases, though, if the mask is a constant, if the lie is constant, then one day, sooner or later, the person wearing it will look into the mirror and not recognize the person looking back. The mask has become fixed to their face, and all that is left beneath feels hollow, barren, and empty.
The weight of an ever-present lie about who you really are will inevitably snuff out all the joy in your soul.
That is no way to live a life.
So, whatever you are, my advice is to be who you truly want to be, and damn the consequences.
…I am, of course, operating under the assumption that what you want to be does not involve anything like being a serial killer, but besides that particular detail… 😉
In the immortal words of Shakespeare, “What-e’er thou art, act well thy part.”
I’ve felt like I’ve worn masks when it comes to having low self-esteem or for hating interests I used to have. Recently, I’ve been realizing how this affected me and I share it in my Representation Matters series I’m working on my main blog. That and internalizing so much anger and sadness hasn’t helped either.
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