The Masks We Give Ourselves

The philosophy that in life we have two options – Sink or Swim – seems to me to the self righteous judgement that achievement is better than failure. Yet failure teaches us to learn from the process, so that if we are ever faced with similar hardships we are better prepared. There seems to be some sort of cultural expectation that you have to have everything together; in your life and in your mind. There is a certain sort of isolation which occurs when we falter slightly from our planned path; as if we believe that people will not love us, understand us or care for us if we voice all the confusion within our heads. It’s as if everyone is hiding behind perfectly painted masks, scared to show their vulnerabilities. As if the strength is in never having sunk below the surface of their suburban lives.

This right here is a fear driven paradigm. The fear is that showing these vulnerabilities makes us weak. That these scars and these muddled states of being are not what show our depth of character but show that we should be hidden away and shunned. We are taught that when we feel confused, angry, ashamed and driven to desperation that we should take ourselves away and ‘reflect’ progressively on the effect we may have on others; forgetting that we all need a release sometimes.

It’s like we cage ourselves within perfect exteriors, brandishing false smiles painted on in the hope that no one will see what is underneath. Because once they have, we deceive ourselves into believing that they will deem us unworthy of love and time. Yet these vulnerabilities are what tie us to one another even more.

There is something very comforting about living within the limbo between sinking and swimming; a strange sort of floating feeling. This limbo is where most people lie to themselves, desperately painting their masks thicker and thicker until they lose who they really were before they wore them.  The comfort comes from the fact that we never really have to deal with the problems, we leave them within cages and behind locked doors kidding ourselves into thinking that all we need to get on with our lives; that we have been fine up until now so why should anything change.

Being vulnerable, bearing the cracked and darkened areas of our soul to others seems make us feel as if we are painting a target on our backs. It’s as if when we open up we feel afraid that people will judge us or abuse us. This is where the fear overwhelms us and hostility begins. We begin to sharpen our edges so that when someone tries to probe into our depths we show aggression. It then becomes habitual that when we are suffering we behave protectively or aggressively in order to ward people off of getting to the root of the matter. This then paradoxically becomes self-fulfilling; we feel vulnerable, we habitually become defensive, we take our automatic defensiveness as a sign that we should not open up to anyone and become more protective.

It is almost as if we have to retrain ourselves out of a fear paradigm and into one of love and acceptance. We all carry scars, we all face struggles, we all have a past it is what makes us human. Yet it is how we deal with our vulnerabilities that is the true success of failure, not the fact that it happened to us in the first place.

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