Growing up it was an insult to be called two-faced. Basically, it is like being called fake or phony. Calling someone two-faced in today’s world is like saying “Yo! You mad fake.” According to Webster’s dictionary to be two-faced means saying different things to different people in order to get their approval instead of speaking and behaving honestly. I don’t know anyone who would associate being two-faced with being a person of good character. I mean, let’s be real, people intuitively pick up on this “fakeness” (i.e. inauthenticity) yet so many of us are walking around thinking we can get away with it.
Recently, I participated in a professional development opportunity titled “The Mask Inside You.” To be honest there was nothing profound about this workshop other than coming to the realization that being authentic is one of the hardest things to do. It almost feels like being two-faced is a means for survival. Being authentic can come with a price such as judgment, rejection, or the fear of being vulnerable with people who may or may not value you as a person. Many people wake up daily determined to make sure their mask(s) stay(s) in place because if others actually knew them they may not be accepted. It is hard for many of us to imagine a world where it iss safe to fully live into who we are.
The biggest sense of freedom that I have ever had is when I learned to be authentic even if others don’t like me. We have all heard that “not everyone is going to like you no matter how hard you try” speech. Even when given this valuable piece of wisdom, it is hard to break away from the need to put on a mask. Are the masks to hide our fears, our insecurities, or our vulnerability? Or are our masks designed to make us look better than what we are?
Paul Laurence Dunbar wrote a poem titled “We Wear the Mask. In this poem he so eloquently defines the dilemma that many of us face when we seek to embrace who we are unapologetically. Being unapologetic about who you are does not grant permission to not be concerned about how others experience us but instead it allows everyone the opportunity to be seen for who they really are, not bound in the shackles of other people’s perceptions or expectations.
We Wear the Mask
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BY PAUL LAURENCE DUNBAR
We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,—
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
And mouth with myriad subtleties.
Why should the world be over-wise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us, while
We wear the mask.
We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries
To thee from tortured souls arise.
We sing, but oh the clay is vile
Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
But let the world dream otherwise,
We wear the mask!