“To thine own self be true.”
You’ve definitely heard of this famous Shakespeare quote before.
It’s a great quote that I love to use and sometimes overuse.
Have you ever wondered what does it really mean, especially in relation to you and your life?
The Mask You Wear
Everyone wears a mask.
What form that mask may take and how often it is worn may vary, but everyone has at least one.
It’s a mandatory part of living in a society with other beings.
You simply cannot be letting everyone know your every thought, whim, desire.
Doing so would result in making yourself vulnerable to all manner of predators, be they identity thieves, scam artists or something more nefarious still.
Doing so would be to invite much more judgment than the average person knows how to handle.
To do so is to risk losing face and be exposed for what you truly are.
Not everyone can live with their secrets exposed (these stories are all based on real people I’ve encountered) :
Rabbi Yousef leads his congregation by day and sucks on the toes of young men at night.
Daniel is an account manager at a large firm but becomes a sissy when his shift ends.
Alexa is a quiet church girl until she lets her inner dominatrix rise to the surface.
James is a muscleman but loves to be tied down and overpowered by bratty women.
Bianca acts tough every day but desires nothing more than to be her Daddy’s good girl at the day’s end.
While you could call all of them liars or frauds, I wouldn’t.
I think there is a world of difference between telling a lie and not telling all of the truth, not revealing everything.
Not everyone needs to know all there is about you; in fact, no one should ever know that much about you.
People should only know what they need to deal with you, and nothing more.
Knowledge is power and keeping knowledge of yourself makes sure power stays in your hands.
The one problem is that keeping secrets comes at a cost, and the darker the secret, the more you will pay to keep it.
Everyone has skeletons in their closets, inner demons they keep at bay, wild impulses they quiet down.
These secrets form the vulnerable part of us and that’s why we keep such things hidden away, that’s why we wear masks that show us as we would want to be.
Your mask is a fun-house mirror version of you: it’s a caricature that accentuates your best qualities while minimizing your worst flaws.
It’s not bad in itself to have a mask, in fact, it’s often useful in shortcutting social interactions.
Think of the well-dressed gangsters of the 1930s, how vicious they were yet how clean they looked!
The media and the American public were enthralled by these ruthless criminals because they looked like they could be gentlemen!
They were hiding the worst of their character behind beautiful suits and photogenic smiles.
Wearing a mask isn’t problematic: wearing a mask and forgetting you’re wearing one is.
Remember that you aren’t fully who you’re pretending to be, you are someone else.
Don’t act like a king if you live like a bum and don’t act like a bum when you like a king.
So how then can you live without the mask?
How can you remove your facade to reveal who you are to the world?
And how can you do this without sacrificing your privacy?
The answer is: carefully.
To let others know of you, of your thoughts and wants, is to expose yourself to them.
You might not be removing all your clothes until you are standing naked, but you may as well be.
In fact, I often would prefer to be naked than to share every thought of mine.
I am quite comfortable with my body and have always been somewhat of an exhibitionist.
I am nowhere near as comfortable expressing what I truly think.
Why is it that we should feel so uneasy presenting the genuine being that we keep hidden away?
No one wants to be alone, or worse, be rejected.
What worse fate can befall a person then to be rejected for who they truly are?
Rejection is terrible for one simple reason: you took a risk to expose yourself and it failed.
You took your chance with the hot cheerleader or the cute boy, and they said: “No, I don’t want you”.
You proposed a radical idea at work and it wasn’t merely passed over, it was scoffed at.
You spoke up in your social group and have since been alienated.
You attempted to get closer to someone, to something but ended further away from the goal.
If anything, being uncomfortable with rejection makes total sense and is normal.
It’s a perfectly reasonable reaction to such a terrible phenomenon and wanting to avoid such things shows you’re sane.
To truly want to be rejected would be a sign that your wiring is off.
We are social animals and have thus evolved a profound need to be accepted.
Without this need, we wouldn’t have cities, countries, clubs, associations, fraternities, etc.
The problem is that by avoiding rejection, you are avoiding putting yourself at risk of being rejected, which means you aren’t living up to the potential you could be.
You aren’t taking the risks you could be taking which means you are missing on opportunities that are right in front of you.
You could be living in a much more satisfying lifestyle if only you were willing to be yourself!
All the fruits of heaven lie within your reach but you won’t even lift your arm.
I hope I have made the point clear so far: In life, you must take risks, carefully.
How do you go about taking a risk carefully?
Trust your instincts and think before acting.
You are the sum of millions and millions of years of evolution, a member of the most powerful species to emerge on Earth.
Your instincts are probably horrendously underused and you will need to learn to pay attention to them again.
When you see someone and you don’t like them, don’t trust them.
When simply thinking of doing something makes you sick to your core, don’t do it.
The more you pay attention to your instincts, the more accurate and useful they will become to you.
Just remember that instincts have their limits and you should not solely rely on them.
For everything else, you have your wits.
If you think before acting, you will find yourself at the master’s table.
You see, most people just react.
Something happens to them so then they make something happen.
- Gaslight turns on, fill up on gas.
- Watch a trailer for a new blockbuster, go see the movie.
- See an ad for a beautiful suit, buy a suit.
- Finished with high school, on to college/university.
- Tragedy in the news, feel sad.
It’s an easy trap to fall into unless you’re actively thinking things through.
- I’m going to drive tomorrow, better fill up now.
- I don’t have to see a movie because everyone else is.
- I don’t wear suits, I don’t need a new one.
- I’m done with the established career path, time to make my own.
- I feel bad because I feel genuine sadness, not because someone told me to feel sad.
What you get by thinking things through and by trusting your instincts is the ability to be yourself when it’s useful and to hide behind a mask when the time calls for it.
You’ll be able to begin living to your unfulfilled potential.
You’ll be able to be your true self and be safe.
Have questions? Comment below or hit me up on Twitter/Instagram!