Self Mask

Commentary by Simon Nguyen

So long as society exists, a person’s life consists of the constant changing of identity in order to conform to society. At home, we play a certain type of role. At work, we play a different type of role. We are all, in fact, actors playing on a grand stage called life.

Not everyone is succumbed to the roles they have been assigned. Many people opt to challenge the will of society by refusing to carry on with their artificial identities – ones that do not truly reflect their real selves. They are willing to uncover their true identity and are not hesitant to reveal the beauty of their true selves. While a minority few are greeted with acceptance, most of these brave souls are greeted with disdain. Some of them will eventually find themselves back to playing the roles assigned to them by society.

There are also people who are trapped between wanting to reveal their true identity and being content to continue to play their assigned roles. As a result, they create a whole new identity for themselves – one that is neither their true nor designated identity. This new “self” serves as a shelter for people to temporarily retreat from confronting reality.

Unfortunately, this identity is unstable and without direction. When we play the roles assigned to us by society, we at least know what the expectations are and how to meet them. If your grandmother was a great actress and so was your mother, you are “destined” to be a great actress to continue the legacy. Under the support and guidance of all the great actresses in your family, it is probable that you will at least make it as an actress.

On the other hand, the self-imposed identity is created out of a wish to escape the hard truths of reality. It is like a prison cell encapsulating its victim within its brick walls. This prison cell, however, is not without an exit. The moment the victim chooses to leave his prison cell, he will be freed. The problem is that he does not want to leave, opting to continue to hide his true self under a mask. He is, in fact, the culprit of his own victimization.

There are moments when a person, trapped in the no-man land between reality and false reality, show glimpses of who he really is. However, such glimpses are just pitiful attempts to gain sympathy from others and a way to justify his cowardly retreat from reality. As a matter of fact, he is feeding from other people's sympathy and finds satisfaction from seeing people suffer in their attempt to pull him away from the no-man land.

A perfect example of this blatant betrayal of human trust is when someone who claims to be unable to perform certain tasks because of a physical or mental injury. In reality, his injury has already been healed. By continuing to maintain the identity of an injured person, he is able to exploit the sympathy of others which enable him to escape life responsibilities.  While this is quite common, the real danger lies in the person prolonging his act way past its due. He may be so infatuated with his role that he might start making himself genuinely believe that the identity he is adopting is actually an authentic one. This could lead him to the point of no return and take him into the path of personal destruction.