There are a lot of different identities, masks or suits of armor that you might decide are what make up who you are. You might even believe the mask or armor IS who you are. Sometimes it is armor we built during our teenage years, yet we wear it for our entire lives, despite the fact that back then we did not even know how to construct armor that would last for a long time. Or the fact that our armor wasn’t even built by us, it was put on us, often against our will, by our peers. We never even realized that we could exist without the armor, in our own reality.
The armor served a purpose. Skateboarder, jock, thug, workout girl, smartest in the class. The mask might be a job, or a neighborhood. A political party, nation or sexual identity. The armor isn’t all bad, not at all. Like any archetype, it can show us what we can be. It can function as a role model. We can benefit from all the work and thoughts of the people who throughout the tens of thousands of years had similar characteristics to that of the stereotype used to help form the stereotype itself. But the mask isn’t intended to be a prison. Instead it is merely a framework. It is indeed empty. We can feel this in someone that we meet when we intuit that they are just playing a role. Again the role isn’t the problem, it’s the fact that they don’t bring any of their own spirit or personality to that role. They are just posing. They are empty inside.
The issue is when we go no further than simply putting the mask on, and use it to define ourselves in finality, we become static, we do not change. The mask is us, all said and done. No room for growth, no room for new ideas.
How others perceive our mask is also an issue. They become accustomed to it. They recognize our mask and they know just how to interact with it. They understand what we are capable of, and what we usually do. Donning a new mask calls all of this into question. What now is possible? What now might this person do to shift the order of things? Is there something wrong with my mask? Should I change it? This thought pattern is often too much for people to face, hence the strong distaste for the changing of established masks.
A better use of the mask is to use it as a tool for exploration. The right way is to take the role, and to use it as a guide, especially in the beginning. There are many things the mask can tell you right away.You don’t need to relearn those secrets, they are already inside of you, the mask simply reveals them. But your true self is realized when you take the mask and add to it. Improvise within its framework. Do this long enough and you will create something completely new. Perhaps it was a mask that didn’t exist before because it didn’t need to. But now it does. Still it is built on the framework of generations of masks that humans have collaboratively generated. No mask is alone. And it’s important to know that whatever you create on your own was not created in isolation, you built it on top of the skill and knowledge of the generations that came before you.
Sometimes putting on a new mask means moving to a new city. Or breaking up with a long time significant other. Or quitting your job. Sometimes we are forced to put on a new mask by bad luck or circumstance. A parent or a best friend unexpectedly dies. We become seriously ill. The old mask no longer fits us, and we suffer trying to find a new one, all the while holding on to the old one that is no longer functional.
How to be free from this cycle? Wear no mask (unless it is to defend against viral infection, but that is a seperate post). Drop the armor. Be vulnerable and open to what the world brings to you. Do not say I am this or I am that. Simply say I am.