The social masks we use every day

In ancient Greece theatrical representations were made with masks because these allowed the actor to transform himself into the character he had to embody. In fact, the term personality derives from the Latin persona , which originally indicated the mask worn by the actors in the theatre.

But masks are not exclusive to the theatre. In a sense, we all use a mask – or more – in our daily lives. This social disguise allows us to face a wide range of situations, but in the long run pretending to be who we are not, trying to adapt to others, satisfying social demands at all costs and pursuing success, fuels a state of internal tension which ends up influencing our mental health.

An old Chinese proverb said: “Tension is who you think you should be, relaxation is who you really are”. It refers to all those masks that we use in society to maintain a character and that end up exhausting us physically and mentally.

The social masks we use every day

“There are many people in the world, but there are even more faces, as everyone has several,” wrote the poet Rainer Maria Rilker. The faces or social masks Rilker referred to are all those roles we play, the different person we become every day at work, at home, with our children, partner, parents or friends…

The mask, in the words of Murray Stein, is “the face with which we present ourselves to the social world around us”. It is the image we project through which we want to be perceived and recognized. Therefore, it is “the individual as he presents himself, but not the individual as he is”, according to Stein, “it is a psychological and social construct adopted with a specific purpose”.

In fact, the Japanese think that we normally wear at least three masks:

  1. The first mask is the one we show to the world
  2. The second mask is the one we show to our family and close friends
  3. The third mask is almost never shown to anyone, despite being our closest reflection

In reality, we can use different masks in one day because we play many roles in different circumstances. There is the self that bows to social or family pressures and expectations for fear of being judged. And there’s the self that wears a mask to survive in a hostile environment where it doesn’t feel safe.

Indeed, the reasons for wearing masks can be both positive and negative. We put on a mask to hide our feelings whenever we’re asked how we’re doing, and we say “I’m fine” when we’re not. We also use masks to hide our fears and vulnerabilities, when we want to convey an image of strength and confidence. We wear a mask to hide the sadness, but also to hide the anger when we’re not supposed to show it. We wear a mask when we want to be accepted and validated. Or when we want to please someone…

The problem with masks is that when they become the norm, they can cause us to lose our identity as we try to please others and adjust to society’s demands. Furthermore, wearing a mask continuously is an exhausting process because it forces us to constantly be careful not to reveal certain emotions, beliefs or ideas.

This is why social masks end up generating internal tension. Pretending is exhausting because he condemns us to live in a parallel reality that is out of step with our authentic selves. Obviously, at some point we should ask ourselves: whose life are we living if we are not ourselves?

Rediscover authenticity to relieve inner tension

We weren’t born with masks. This means that just as we put them on, we can also take them off. In fact, there are at least three good reasons to get rid of the masks we use every day:

  1. Harnessing our potential. Living with masks not only creates tension, but ends up limiting our potential. If we continually submit to the expectations and demands of others, it is difficult for our potential to emerge because it generally derives from our uniqueness, which is precisely what we are masking.
  2. Relieve tension. Living inauthentically is exhausting. There is no doubt. We put on one or two masks and take one off only to put on another, depending on the circumstances. Not only is it exhausting, but we can also end up forgetting who we are. Removing our masks will allow us to relieve that tension.
  3. Healing. Using masks implies, in a sense, censoring a part of ourselves. Deep down, we believe that those parts that we hide are not worthy of coming to light. On many occasions this implies a lack of acceptance and rejection of our own shadows. Maybe we think we are not good enough, brilliant, interesting? We may fear that others will reject us if they know our true selves. To drop the masks is to look at those shadows, incorporate them into our identities, and heal the wounds they were causing.

In the children’s book ” The Velveteen Bunny ,” Margery Williams tells the adorable story of a bunny brought to life by the love of a small child. It’s a beautiful metaphor for the value of authenticity and vulnerability. She conveys the idea that we become real when we open up to the world.

The main risk we face is the social backlash. Opening up and being authentic often threatens others because it “forces” them to reevaluate their lives. Many times, it makes them realize that they too have the power to change, but they don’t want to, perhaps because they are too scared or are so used to their masks that they have lost touch with themselves.

However, there is no greater freedom than being yourself. There is no greater happiness than recognizing yourself as you are. There is no greater relaxation than that which comes from authenticity, without masks, without appearances, without useless egos… It is never too late to become more real, like the rabbit in the story, through self-love and acceptance of himself.


by Abdullah Sam
I’m a teacher, researcher and writer. I write about study subjects to improve the learning of college and university students. I write top Quality study notes Mostly, Tech, Games, Education, And Solutions/Tips and Tricks. I am a person who helps students to acquire knowledge, competence or virtue.

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