Why do you think it’s common for people to have public personas completely incongruent with their real personalities? Is it because of their need for acceptance? Is it because they attained so much success from hiding behind a mask?
That’s a very interesting question dear reader and one I can only hope of doing justice to. I am going to assume that you are talking about the phenomenon of what Marianne Williamson refers to as “our paste-up personality”; the mask that most of us wear in the public sphere and comes off as soon as we go home- kind of like the analogy of women and make up and/or bras. I don’t know about you, but a lot of women tell me the first thing they do when they get home is take off that damn bra and wipe off their make-up and get into their sweatpants and a cosy t-shirt. It’s tiring wearing a mask all day and it feels so good to take it off and just be ourselves, doesn’t it?
The way I see it is that every single one of us learned early on in our family-of-origin to play a particular role in the family that helped us get us what we needed at the time (or was at least a sincere attempt to get our needs met). For example, one client of mine had an older sister who was “a problem child” and created a lot of stress and chaos for the parents. As the second and only other child, she realized pretty quickly that the role of ‘troublemaker’ was obviously taken and she would need to pick a different role to get her needs met in the family. So she decided to be the “good girl” in an attempt to decrease her parents stress by being easy, compliant, and helpful. In turn, she figured that by playing this role, she would probably have a better chance of getting love and approval from her parents.
And guess what? It worked- for the most part. She became the “favourite” child by being so good, but ended up in therapy as an adult because she came to realize that when you’re stuck in such rigid role and wearing one mask, it can have a serious downside. The downside for this woman was that she became a serious perfectionist in all areas of her life and became emotionally crippled if someone else didn’t give her the praise and recognition she yearned for.
Also, she had trouble in intimate relationships- she tended to attract partners who took a lot from her and gave very little in return. This created distance and resentment on her part. What started off at an early age as an attempt at closeness in relationships ended up creating distance between herself and her loved ones as an adult.
I also want to point out that we don’t consciously choose these roles or masks when we’re little; nor are we often conscious of the particular role we play when we become adults. The good news is that through psychotherapy, we have the chance to safely explore the masks we wear, both in public and in private. Just as some people wear a particular mask in public, many others wear a totally different and incongruent mask in their personal lives. Just think of Jian Ghomeshi– the public mask was the complete opposite of the one he wore when he was involved intimately with a woman.
How to Let Go of Your Mask
In summary, there are both pros and cons of the masks we all wear and I feel that we owe it to ourselves and the people in our lives to take a good honest look at those masks and ask ourselves the following questions:
What masks do I wear both in private and in public?
Where did I learn to play these roles in the first place?
Why was a good idea to develop these roles at the time? How did they serve me?
What are the costs of perpetuating these roles in the present? How are they serving me and those I care about?
If you’re left with some burning questions after this exercise and really want to explore this further, I strongly suggest trying some counselling sessions. I hope that helped answer your question dear reader. If any of you reading this have experience in this area and want to share it with the reader who sent in the question, as well as the rest of us, please send it in to me and I’ll share it: estherATestherkane.com
Have a question you want me to answer?
Hey Readers! I need some questions for my “Ask Esther…” column…
Do you have a question for me or a situation that you’re struggling through that I can help you with?
Do you think if I answered your query on this blog that it would be helpful to other readers as well as you?
I will answer one question a month, so keep checking back to see if I’ve chosen yours!
If so, please send the query to me at email@example.com.
I Want Your Stories!
Are you a woman with an inspirational, uplifting, and empowering story that you think may appeal to my readers (i.e., other awesome women like yourself)? Do you believe in the power of self-help and women helping women?
Have you struggled with and then found peace/healing/strength from any of the following?
An eating disorder
Drug or alcohol (or fill-in-the-blank) addiction
Ageing in a youth-obsessed world
Highly Dysfunctional Family-of-origin
Or any other serious life challenge?
If so, I’m guessing that my loyal readers would love to hear your story. I’m all about empowering women and I know for a fact that the best way to do that is for us to share with each other and provide support to other women who are struggling with something that we once struggled with too. We as women have so much strength, support and wisdom to share with each other and I would love to give you the opportunity to do just that via my weekly e-zine.
I have the privilege every day to hear women’s incredible stories of deep pain and suffering but also of how they overcame serious adversity and multiple obstacles that were put in their way. I learn and grow so much as a result but due to confidentiality, cannot share those stories with you, my wonderful readers. But you can choose to share those stories with each other via this e-zine if you’d like. I encourage you greatly to do so and I know personally and professionally how healing and empowering it is to do so.