You know when the mask begins to crack. The mask you’ve worn for so long no longer feels comfortable. Not that it ever truly did, but now for some reason you cannot pretend it’s okay. Once the mask has cracked things cannot and will not remain the same. Though for a while you may resist, inevitably, change is coming.
The cracking of the mask occurs when it is no longer possible or desirable to conceal the true nature of who and what you are. It happens when you realise your old ways of being, thinking and doing belong in the past. It comes when you acknowledge that who you’ve been so far is a relic of your old, limited and conditioned self, and that it is time for change. To paraphrase those oft quoted words of Anaïs Nin, the day comes when the risk to remain tight in the bud is more painful than the risk it takes to blossom.
And when that time for change comes, you will not be able to rest easy until you’ve taken action. Though there may be those around you who do not understand the path you’ve chosen, or who are threatened by your new disregard for convention, do not be perturbed. Remember that fortune favours the brave, that on your deathbed you want to look back and know you had the conviction to follow what was right and true.
It is all too easy to fall into the trap of passively accepting a lack of fulfilment in our lives. It’s the path that rarely brought anyone a deep sense of meaning, but it is what is expected of us, and it’s reinforced by the cultural narratives we are surrounded by. No one warns of it’s pitfalls. For those of us not clear enough in our minds about how we want to live, or not strong or confident enough to do anything about it, the path of mediocrity sucks us in like a black hole consumes whatever has the misfortune of straying too close.
Do not fear the cracking of the mask. Though change is afoot, what you lose you won’t miss, and what you gain will be immeasurable. Have courage, believe in your values, and remember you will not only be doing yourself a favour by embracing a new mode of being. By choosing this path of authenticity you will inspire others to do the same. You will be a more positive presence in the lives of those you know. Though challenges await, know that nothing of worth was ever gained easily.
Do not fear the cracking of the mask.
How I yearn to be just one person. I’m tired of censoring myself. I’m fed up with thinking about how to present myself to one person or another. I’ve had enough of being a different person to everyone I meet. I wish to speak freely, to be myself, to not have to hide aspects of myself and things I’m interested in just because they do not conform to what I perceive to be the conventional reality consensus or what I think someone is comfortable hearing.
Oh how I wish to be one person. I feel like I live in seperate worlds at once. I’m not impressed by my tendency to try and guess what values someone I’m talking to holds and to mould my conversation and presentation of myself to fit. It is not the action of a self assured person. It is not the way of the superior man.
Yet I find myself doing this all the time. I guess we all do it to certain degrees. And of course different circumstances do call for adjustments in behaviour, language and presentation; we’re obviously not going to act in the same way around everyone because society has established roles and expectations and to a certain extent it makes sense to adhere to these – be respectful to a policeman if you don’t want to get arrested, or quiet in a library if you don’t want to piss everyone off, for example.
But I’m not talking so much about these kinds of expectations, although they are related. What I’ve started to become more conscious of is how I often find myself not disclosing things I’m really interested in because of a fear that people will find me unacceptable. It’s a fear of judgement and I believe it comes from a fear of not being good enough, and a desire to win approval from others.
Leaving aside the psychodynamic origins of my fear, a bulk of the discomfort is a result of the fragmented universe I inhabit, and in this I know I’m not alone. I have one foot in an extremely conventional world. The world of nine to five, of office uniforms, of colleagues with Louis Vuitton bags and music ‘talent’ shows on TV, the world of pop culture, of gadgets and fashion. This is where I earn a majority of my income and a few aspects of this I embrace, like my weakness for skinny jeans and a good haircut.
My other foot rests firmly in an alien landscape of psychedelic ceremonies, regular meditation practice, chlorella in my green smoothies, abstention from alcohol, a constant search for existential meaning, no television at home and a conviction that the universe is alive and wants us to realise our own true nature as some kind of divine cosmic creative expression.
You might notice the discord between these seemingly irreconcilable realities.
Now in the workplace I do think it is perfectly acceptable to present a façade to a certain extent. People often like to keep their work lives and personal lives separate, and many just like to turn up, do their stuff and go again. I can understand this attitude. I think it’s boring and a waste of an opportunity to share experience with other human beings but I understand. Similarly, I think that hurling my guts up on ayahuasca in the amazon jungle is a topic I can safely leave out of discussion at the weekly team meeting without castigating myself for being inauthentic. The professional world, for good or for bad, has certain expectations and not adhering to them could make you extremely unemployable. I’m not saying I agree with this culture, just that if I want to get and stay hired I should probably not disclose the aforementioned psychedelic ceremonies. Ultimately of course our workplace should reflect our values but that’s another story and not everyone is able to achieve this.
Where I have noticed myself not being so authentic is for example when I am out with certain friends, talking with colleagues or meeting new people and I don’t discuss my daily meditation practice, my interest in self development or my disdain for the values of the predominating worldview of our time, when I have the opportunity to do so. I believe I have interesting and important views on such matters yet I turn away from articulating them to many people because of fear of how someone will respond and what they might think of me. It’s a fear of not being accepted and I’m guessing if I think like this there must be a fair few others who do the same. At work I present a ‘safe’ version of myself that I know falls within expected norms. I think I’m worried people will think I’m strange or deluded. I’m sure many people have similar fears about being authentic or acting as themselves, which stem from a range of reasons.
It strikes me though that the man I want to be, the strong steadfast man I’m striving to make reality, would not censor himself out of fear. His imperative would be to express himself truly, boldly even, having confidence in his values, in what he believes to be true, and in what he knows to be the right way to live.
The man I aspire to be is fearless in his independence from what others think of him. Not in an aloof, arrogant way, but because he knows himself, he has established what he values and the reasons for that, and has developed the strength of character to not fear rejection. It is the hallmark of someone who has grown out of insecure ways of thinking and of someone ready to make a mark on the world.
In addition, being courageous enough to be honest and authentic give others permission to do the same. It creates a space in which it is safe to speak from the heart and without fear of judgement. Imagine how much richer our conversations would be if we all spoke our truths! Imagine what we could learn from one another. Also imagine how it would be to not have to constantly worry about whether the person you are talking to will judge you based on your words.
Now I’m not advocating spilling your life story to the person sat next to you on the bus, but imagine how much deeper our friendships would be if we refused to sell ourselves short with superficial conversation and instead revealed the things we care about, are concerned about, hope for and dream of. Maybe as a result we would stop feeling so isolated from each other, we’d realise more of the humanity in others, and we’d realise we’re not so weird after all. Maybe we would come to realise that neglect of the inner landscape of the human condition in favour of superficiality and sales by our society’s mainstream culture is a grave misrepresentation of what it means to be alive.
I know I can’t be the only one who thinks like this. This is something everybody deals with in varying amounts – the invention of our many personas and their presentation to the external world; deciding how we define ourselves to others. Being authentic, being truly one person, seems to me to embody a powerful way of living. It promotes harmony in our inner lives and states our belief in what we hold to be important.
I think it is a necessary and empowering stage on the journey of our conscious evolution, and might enable a much more profound and richer engagement with life. Fear based patterns of thinking that inhibit authenticity are undoubtedly strong, but we can chip away at them each and every time we refuse to be quiet, each time we say what we really think, and whenever we go against conditioned instinct and boldly display our authentic selves.