“We are what we pretend to be. So we must be careful what we pretend to be.” - Kurt Vonnegut
Are you the fun friend or the smart one at work; the successful kid or the perfect girlfriend? Many of us wear masks, even present multiple facades in our daily lives, but why?
We may be avoiding knowing our true self or we may know who we are, deep down, but are afraid to share it. Whether facades represent an alienation from self, a compelling need to please, or a veiled self loathing, those buried under their facades risk both isolation and loss of authentic self.
Spending time, unaware of how we are cloaked in facade, can erode knowledge of our genuine character. We may begin to mistake our false fronts as our real selves and risk letting material wealth, looks, or accomplishments become definers of personal worth.
Those who know themselves, but hide it out of a need to please, fear of rejection, or self loathing face an even greater risk -- isolation. If you know your authenticity, but never show it, than no one can ever truly know or love you. This can lead to some grim results as facades are often implicated in suicide, specifically in those who lose work identity, superficial beauty or deny their sexuality.
The personal journey towards authenticity begins with the shedding of layers that don’t reflect our truth. And this journey leads us toward having more genuine experiences and being seen out in our everyday lives. Becoming authentic is also about aligning what you say, what you do, and who you are.
Here are some steps to help you drop the act, open up and become more authentic.
We must see our false fronts - Many of us have been building facades since childhood, putting on new masks for extracurriculars, peer groups, teachers and parents. Look back on your life and notice the inconsistencies and disappointments as they often point to mismatches between our true and projected selves. Why didn’t you go to the college of your choice? Why are you still in a less than ideal job? Why do you feel awkward in certain situations?
Work towards a deeper understanding about your intentions and actions.
We must discern our authenticity - Once you recognize facades, think critically about what’s behind them. Learn to separate your own point of view from other people’s expectations. Ask yourself about your values, goals and ideals and then consider what is required for following the principles you believe. What facades stand in the way of your intentional actions?
For example, does being a good daughter mean you can’t move out of state, even though your ideal career requires it? Does being a responsible father mean you can’t start the business of your dreams? Isolate the authentic longing and values embedded in these dilemmas. It can be scary, but let yourself be heard.
We must be willing to be vulnerable - There are many reasons we hide authenticity, but the big ones are fear of rejection and failure. We’ve all had moments of being genuine and getting hurt, and these moments serve as foundations to our facades.
Popular researcher, Brené Brown, has dedicated her life to research on vulnerability and has found that those who embrace these uncomfortable emotions find their authenticity and a deeper well being. And this, ultimately, is why we must work to drop the facades. No one wearing a million masks, being different things all day for different people, can experience a sense of centered well being.
Elizabeth Kubler Ross gives us these words to live by: “Our concern must be to live while we're alive - to release our inner selves from the spiritual death that comes with living behind a facade designed to conform to external definitions of who and what we are.”