Knowing People Behind the Masks They Wear


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by Jayaram V

Your public self is very different from your personal Self. The public self keeps changing according to the circumstances and the people you meet. You act differently before those with whom you are closer than those who are strangers to you or whom you do not know much. We are comfortable with the known, familiar and predictable aspects of life. The masks we wear make us more predictable and acceptable to others. We put forward our conditioned selves which are in conformity with the demands of society.

The true Self rarely comes out. Modern psychology teaches us that we hide parts of our own personalities and consciousness even from ourselves, which is difficult to unravel even after considerable analysis and observation. We are therefore a mystery to ourselves and others. People dislike free souls who are unafraid to speak freely or disregard the social conventions.

As the Hindu doctrine of Maya suggests, our social behavior and appearances are mere projections of what we want others to see. Social media platforms are popular because they give you a lot of anonymity to hide behind a cloak or mask and become anyone you want to be to say whatever you are free to say or lawfully allowed to say. When the cloak comes out, you feel vulnerable and exposed, especially if you have acted inappropriately or caused hurt and harm to others.

People are difficult to know because they wear masks all the time. They are not what they appear to be. The masks which they wear protect them from the judgment and disapproval of others and from their own judgment. It also provides others who interact with them with an opportunity to adjust their own masks and corresponding behavior.

Because of this, people are deprived of many opportunities to know others or form healthy relationships. Because of the conditioning and the weight of social pressure to which we are all subject, they become so immersed in the ritualistic and superficial behavior that they cannot ascertain who their true friends are and with whom they should establish trustworthy relationships. In the process, most relationships at some point hurt them and consume their peace of mind.

Many relationships fail when the masks gradually wear off, and people bare their true selves. By that time, the damage must have already been done to the psyche of those who were attracted to their public persona. Those who succumb to the initial charm and surface impressions often pay a heavy price and find it hard to recover from the depression that follows.

Those situations can be avoided if people try to know the truth about others and question their own assumptions and expectations. No matter what, the truth about every person eventually comes out if you are careful enough to observe their behavior and expressions in unguarded moments. If you are lucky, you may notice the subtleties and inconsistences in people’s behavior in the very early stages of your relationship with them. For that sometimes, you may need to open up and put down your own mask to elicit a genuine reaction or response.

This knowledge should help you choose your relationships wisely and decide how much time and energy you will invest in them or how much distance you should maintain from them. If you are a victim of a bad relationship, know that you might have played a role in that and allowed that to happen through your carelessness or negligence.

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