“All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players; they have their exits and their entrances, and one man in his time plays many parts — William Shakespeare
I have friends that don’t know the real me. Or at least it feels that way. It’s not because we haven’t known each other for years, but because I feel as though I wear masks when I’m with them.
I play a part: some get the guy who likes to crack jokes; others get the me that can talk their heads off for hours; and some get the introvert who wants to be left alone. These parts aren’t what I want, rather it’s what I fell into — and often I feel as though there’s no escape.
As a performer I blame myself. I’m used to taking on roles and satisfying crowds in-part because I want to, but also because it’s what the audience demands. Now I have this part of me that wants to satisfy my friends even if it means sacrificing my own happiness.
It isn’t easy to keep up either. After I’m done hanging out with friends I often feel drained. It’s as if I had to keep up a charade for hours — one sprinkled with bits of authenticity but a charade nonetheless.
So I started asking myself questions:
- I’ve known these people for years — but am I really friends with them?
- Is it me? Is it my fault that I can’t be real with them?
- Should I force myself to be something I’m not?
The psychology of pretending to be someone you're not
“I have to put on a mask anytime I talk to anyone — it’s the only way I know how to express myself. I’m trying to get to a place where I don’t need to wear a mask, where I’m fully vulnerable.” — Kevin Abstract
In an interview with music producer Rick Rubin, rapper Kevin Abstract opened up about feeling inauthentic with friends and family. For me he hit the issue on the head, a problem I’ve dealt with for much of my young adult life: I have a problem being vulnerable.
It's not the type of vulnerability where I need to break down and cry about my problems. No, this was a problem of me being honest with people.
Here's the truth: If you're tired of playing a role in a group then you need to tell these friends; you need to tell your boss; you need to tell your parents. Stop playing parts because you feel indebted to people and instead be honest about how I feel.
In my experience, telling the truth helped me become better friends with others. Conversely, it may ruin the friendship, but if it means my sanity, and being honest with myself and them, so be it.
As a young 20-something, I’m starting to see this as the stage where you lose many of your friends but tighten bonds with the rest. I’m two years removed from college and there are so many “good friends” I’ve lost contact with.
Such is life I guess.
I’m tired of wearing different masks for people. If it means I need to lose friends and become closer to my real ones, so be it. Honesty and vulnerability hurt others and ourselves— you’re sacrificing living in a fantasy world for the truth. But at this point, I’d rather have the truth.