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The Masks We Wear and Authenticity

personperson Don't believe everything you thinkThe liminal space Veteran

I was a nerdy kid growing up in the 80s before geek was chic. I never really fit in and even after school never really found a place of belonging. As a result I think I've sort of learned to adapt myself to the social situation I find myself in, which in some respect is fairly normal, the idea that we all wear different masks in the different areas of our life.

I'm relating this to the idea of authenticity. How to be authentic and yet still adequately conform to differing tribes social norms. Maybe this isn't the best analogy but imagine being a native German speaker interacting with an English speaking group, would it be inauthentic to speak English, you're not truly being yourself, are you being dishonest at all? I don't think most people would think that, perhaps the German would be seen as inauthentic if they also tried to hide their accent?

Relating that to social customs, if I'm a brick layer but I'm attending some party for academics my wife was invited to, if I don't spit on the ground or swear like a sailor am I presenting a false front?

I guess for myself I have a fear of being rejected or mocked if I'm not fitting in enough. So I guess I'm asking how does one draw the line between being yourself and doing as the Romans do?



  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran

    Much like yourself in high school I wasn't part of the popular crowd and did a stint with the more rebel and partier crowd but ultimately didn't fit with them either. I strongly identified with the Catcher in the Rye character seeing how people were 'phonies'. At the time at least I felt that way.

    Now I actually have anxiety around unfamiliar people. I don't think same as 'social anxiety' because I will go out and expose myself to that just my wit perhaps call it an IQ for witty remarks is quite low on account of the anxiety on the spot.

    So with unfamiliar people I am mostly just sort of plain and simple and a good listener. It works for me for the most part I suppose.

    I really enjoyed a course on Insight Timer: Rising Above Social Anxiety by Ellen Hendriksen PHD.. I repeated the course maybe 3x I think and I thought it was great

  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran

    Yeah I was also kind of average-geeky in school... good at maths and physics, played Dungeons and Dragons with friends, interested in computer games. So I know a bit of what you are talking about @person, I was never with the in-crowd, mostly with little groups of friends.

    I used to be quite shy and withdrawn, but I was rarely inauthentic. My path out of that was through success at work... I was promoted into a leading role and developed myself that way. There are different demands that are placed on you when leading a group of people, and it forces you to rediscover yourself.

    The whole thing of wearing social masks is something I used to do a bit more when I was younger, these days I don’t have so much call for it. I just try to be open and friendly, but I still sometimes withdraw from social situations when it becomes a bit much when the opportunity is there. That does mean that sometimes people see you as not being social, but I can live with that.

    I’ve always found that reacting from goodwill and authenticity is the best way.

  • personperson Don't believe everything you think The liminal space Veteran

    Thanks for the input. I think after thinking this out I'm realizing my fears have more to do with fitting in long term when relationships develop and masks fall away, rather than parties or one time social gatherings. Because I'm meeting new people all the time professionally I'm fairly comfortable with short term, more superficial relationships.

  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran

    @person said:
    I think after thinking this out I'm realizing my fears have more to do with fitting in long term when relationships develop and masks fall away

    Now there is a whole different kettle of fish; the revealing of what you are without masks to someone who matters can be tricky. Different people have different triggers in life.

  • lobsterlobster Veteran
    edited July 2020

    Now there is a whole different kettle of fish

    ah ha ... now you are talking :3
    Yes I have been triggered ... ;)

    Different situations have different requirements/masks/restrictions/freedoms ...

    Most of us have a need for interaction/attention. We also may or may not wear guises to fool ourselves [aha ... who are we for real?]

    I am very pleased to note that through the efforts of our moderators, people who are unkind or masking unhelpful agendas are unmasked and put in the troll heap ...

    It allows safety for honest discourse. So try turning your mask inside out or discarding ... or even wear a pumpkin head 🎃

    ... and now a word from ... The Prisoner

  • howhow Veteran Veteran

    Initially, the most important person to practice being unmasked in front of, is the person you want to stay with. If they can't put up with who you really are, face that rejection immediately, not later when you're emotionally entangled and with kids & mortgages to boot.
    The second most important person to practice being unmasked for is your self because if you can truly face yourself unmasked, all expressions of self or of other, get to be seen for the dream construction that they are.

  • personperson Don't believe everything you think The liminal space Veteran

    This has been clarifying for myself to write this down and get feedback, thanks.

    I think what I'm feeling is that I want to be able to join with a sangha and receive the support there, but due to past experience I worry that it won't work out unless I conform to an unacceptable (for me) degree.

    When I was young and completely unaware I would often say the true thing that I wasn't supposed to say. I'm not really sure my basic temperament has changed much in that regard, now I'm just more aware of social realities around me. From a moral foundations level I score a 1 out of 10 on purity, I have little concern for sacred cows and I often want to poke them when I see them. Anyway all that is to say I don't trust myself to not step on important toes, even when I try not to I do in indirect ways.

    In my experience every group has things they hold sacred and I don't like the idea of making long term commitments only to have others in charge of cutting them short.

    I'm just kind of venting now, I don't know that there's any advice except to let go of my fears.

  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    This has been clarifying for myself to write this down and get feedback, thanks.

    <3 You have a plan ... and it works ...
    Words can often mask or distort our intention, usually by us ...

    Do we recognise our distortion/clarity in presentation?
    ... journaling/confession/blogging etc so helpful ...

  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    I came across this article this morning
    "Are Authentic People More Mindful"

    We found that those who scored higher on our test for authenticity were indeed more mindful. They were better at observing changes in their body, describing their feelings, more aware of what is going on around them, and more able to accept themselves. And they were also more emotionally intelligent.

  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran
    edited July 2020

    The Masks We Wear and Authenticity

    I'm under the impression authenticity would have a lot to do with being spontaneous and vice versa.....

    Spontaneity induces authenticity .... Authenticity induces spontaneity ...

    The more spontaneous a person (no pun intended) the more authentic....

    Becoming more familiar with the mind, (which in turn tames/trains it to act and not react) can also help to open up/unlock spontaneity, I guess which eventually leads to a true self authenticity.... one which is becoming more wholesome in go with the flow action...truer nature so to speak...

    As a Dharma practitioner I am a works in progress...

  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran

    The whole question of spontaneity and acting from the heart is a tricky one. What if you want something that is not wholesome? I think most people watch themselves, even if often it is not necessary.

  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    @Kerome said:
    The whole question of spontaneity and acting from the heart is a tricky one. What if you want something that is not wholesome? I think most people watch themselves, even if often it is not necessary.

    Yes in the conventional sense this is true....

    However ....Spontaneity is from what I gather something which comes from an original place, (not something one spends lots of time thinking about) I'm using the term in the context of a mind trained/tamed or in the process of being trained/tamed (or if one likes reconditioned ) to respond in a more wholesome/beneficial/natural manner ... an action free from doubt and with the intention of being beneficial...or doing the least harm possible... ( in the ultimate sense natural being a loose term when one takes into consideration karma and how we operate/function through karmic patterns) plus I'm talking more so along the lines of Dharma practitioners in the process of training/taming their minds to act and not react when triggers present an auto response which automatically adapts/adjusts in a more positive way, to the situations as they present themselves ...

    So spontaneity in this sense is authentic in that it is starting to come from a gradual change in direction/behaviour of what could be seen as one's natural flow of the psycho physical phenomena we call the self AKA a vibrating bundle of energy flux held together by karmic glue ....a loosening up of the grip of the clinging aggregates- which in turn releases the accumulated junk/unwholesome conditioning... so to speak...

    From what I gather the aim is for one's natural ( original) behaviour to flow free from the defilements of accumulated attachments...

    So I guess when it come to authenticity & spontaneity, I'm talking along the lines of in the 'ultimate' senses ( being freed from defilements) more so than in ( the defilement filled) conventional senses....

    The long term goal is to get out of self imposed gaol....

  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    Very well said @Shoshin <3

    Authenticity is not an unbridled ID, hence I have no truck with osho, ming the merciless, ch oprah trungpa winfry, dozey trump or myself.

    The authentic is pure and undefiled.

    My little pony v. buddha nature ...

  • wildflowerswildflowers Australia New

    I think what others have been saying about putting more attention on experiencing the moment and being inquisitive about what can be learnt, rather than how you are being or coming across would mean that the mask drops naturally to an extent. This coupled with the general idea of kindness and right speech would keep things mostly inline as far as social rules go, so we should then feel the freedom of ‘being ourselves’ within those guidelines.

    Maybe we put masks on when we are trying to grasp to or control a certain outcome (people accepting us)?

    I tend to put 1 of 2 masks on because I get a little anxious socially, either - jokester or - aloof. I’m learning how to drop these a little but it’s tricky because it‘s a knee jerk reaction really. I believe we are more than one presentation of ourselves so if a certain situations makes you act different, it’s just how you as a person reacts to that particular situation and that then is genuinely you. I found helpful the Zen idea that there always exists more than one expression of yourself at all times, you are never all just one thing helpful. For example: If you are currently angry there is also inside you somewhere a you that is calm and at ease.

    For me it’s about balance. I think it’s important to be true to yourself and not deny parts of yourself because that is not kind to yourself. But also within that just try to do so with as much good-will and kindness to others as possible. We are whole humans and often so called ‘negative’ traits also have a whole heap of positive or useful traits connected to them that you end up suppressing if you deny that part. For example judgement could be seen as a negative trait but it also helps you determine your preferences, values and standards.

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