By this point in your life, you would have undergone a range of learning and relationships that define who you are today. But do these experiences mean that we know who we are, or have we just gotten better at putting on masks?
We all have them. The one we show our parents, family, friends, significant other, teachers, strangers, etc. We don’t act with the same level of familiarity with our parents than with strangers. We don’t talk to our teachers like we talk to our friends. And we definitely don’t behave the same way with our best friend than with everyone else.
We have different mannerisms in regards to the people we interact with, and it has naturally become ingrained as part of our behavior – so much that we may rarely notice it. Maybe you’re a vivacious person, just as open with your friends as with a stranger. But, as for me, the lines are bolder. It has come to my attention that I treat everyone with at least slightly different: my mom, dad, best friend, close friends, 4-year-old cousin, uncles, teachers, etc. Does this mean that I’m not truly myself when I’m interacting with someone I’m not as close with?
I believe this difference in personality is what enables me to figure out who I am, and only I need to know that. I may be shy, more held-back and polite when I’m around people I’m not too close with, but I know that these characteristics don’t put me in a box. They see a side of me that I want to portray, a mask that I put on for the given situation. Not everyone may see the lively side of me, and that’s okay.
So, what do these “masks” ultimately suggest about our behavior? I think they come in different ways, levels, and intents. I don’t try to put on masks to deceive people, and neither do you (I hope). I don’t use masks to pretend to be any other person other than the one in the present moment, and even if that person is not who I am when I’m at home, that’s alright. I don’t need to be 100% “myself” at all times. It’s exhausting, and it’s unnatural.
If you’re known to be an outgoing person, it’s okay to not want to go out sometimes. If people always see you as the understanding person, it’s fine if you are tired of listening to others. We all need a break. And most importantly, we all change.
With every form of interaction that we have, we get to know ourselves better. And as you get to know yourself better, your sense of identity becomes stronger. That, I believe, is the key to gradually nurturing better and healthier relationships.