Two weeks ago I posted about artist Judith Henry who incorporates masks as part of her mixed-media artwork compositions that explore the various roles we play. She hides behind a mask and becomes part of her canvas (above), just as we sometimes hide a part of our personality in certain settings and depending on the situation.
It got me thinking about the ‘masks’ we all wear, to what extent we tend to layer ourselves at times and the reasons why. I don’t know the psychology behind it, but I think it’s fairly simple to explain.
In theory, ‘masks’ are a persona that we put on top of the ‘real thing.’ It is a version of our ‘true selves. It’s not necessarily that we aren’t being authentic, but we can edit our personalities and decorate the versions we prefer to share to the world.
Why do we feel the need to do this?
What they shield are those parts of us that for whatever reasons, we don’t like or accept; or that others need us to hide to make them feel more comfortable. Or we don’t feel comfortable telling the complete truth for fear of breaking down so we are in actuality protecting ourselves from being hurt, our pride from rejection or to keep us from looking like a complete fool. Okay, maybe it’s not so simple after all.
I’m sure that if everyone let down their complete guard to anyone who asked “how are you today” people might be surprised and not be able to fully accept or handle exactly how you’re really doing. It’s keeping a barrier of politeness and having boundaries. In other words, “not wearing your life on your sleeve” at the first introduction.
Then there are societal rules that make it easier for us to fit in so we can adapt to situations like when we’re looking for work or meeting new people for the first time. We don’t want to appear too needy or too shy but sometimes we are exactly that. That’s just the rules of the game folks.
Interesting subject though don’t you think?
Two poems on the matter:
“She had blue skin,
And so did he.
He kept it hid
And so did she.
They searched for blue
Their whole life through,
Then passed right by-
And never knew.” – Shel Silverstein, Every Thing On It
We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,–
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
And mouth with myriad subtleties.
Why should the world be overwise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us, while
We wear the mask.
We sing, but oh the clay is vile
Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
But let the world dream otherwise,
We wear the mask! – Paul Laurence Dunbar