Whether you realize it or not, you all live behind masks. Masks are what we show the world around us and, at the same time, hide our true selves, even from ourselves most of the time.
“I am a father”, “I am a mother”, “I am a firefighter” and “I am a nurse” are all masks because that is what you say you are when you are with others. But you are not that all the time. During a day, you may wear many masks. A woman might be a “mother”, in the morning, the “office manager” during the working day, and a “lover” at night, each mask totally different from the other and yet it is the same person.
The problem with masks is that, once you put them on, you become the mask, locked into all its responsibilities and restrictions. Masks define what your characteristics should be so that others around you know how to interact with you. You put on the mask of “auto mechanic” and people will ask you questions about cars. You put on the mask of “doctor” and you’ll get medical questions, but no one will ask you about how to fix a car even if that is your hobby.
The good thing about masks is that, while you’re wearing one, everyone around you knows what to expect from you and as long as you live up to those expectations, everyone is satisfied. The problem is that they restrict what you are allowed to do. A police officer can’t let the criminal go free, no matter what the reason for the crime. To do so would be going against the mask.
So why do you have masks?
Masks simplify your life. They give you a reduced number of choices to make decisions from that everyone else will accept. A soldier in uniform on the battlefield shooting at the enemy is acceptable to most people. But that same soldier in uniform shooting at civilians is not because what the soldier is doing is outside what the mask is allowed to do.
However, once you’ve put on a mask and other have seen it, you may not be able to take it off, at least in their eyes. You see, you put masks on others as well as yourself. When you look at a person for the first time, you note what mask they are wearing. Then the next time you see them, you put that mask back on them without even thinking. If you’re a cat lover and believe that all cat lovers are good people, how do you feel when see a serial killer who obviously loves their cat? Do you see a serial killer, or a cat lover? Or are you confused because you’ve never seen the mask “serial killer and cat lover” before?
So look around at the people who surround you and realize that you are not seeing them. You are just seeing the mask that you have placed on them at that moment. Realize that no matter how hideous or loving they appear at that moment, they can put on other masks and be something else if you let them.
Background picture by Elif Dilara Bora (https://unsplash.com/@elifborae)