Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Putting on a mask

In my life, I've been quite an actor. I've been like the chameleon who changes color to suit the background situation. I don't remember when putting on masks became a way of life, but most probably I developed my acting ability when I was very young. I would smile and pretend that everything was okay. Even if I felt like crawling in a hole someplace, I would always say that I was fine.

I would have different acting roles depending on the group that I was with. If I was with the party crowd, then I would be happy go lucky. If I was with the studious group, then I'd be serious. If I was with the drugging hippy crowd, then I would be hip and cool. Later in life, I acted as the professional, convinced of my importance and great standing in my chosen career. I don't think that there were many times in my marriage that I dropped the mask, at least not to the outside world. It was in place and all looked right outwardly.

Most of my life, I never felt apart of any group. Because I wanted people to like me, I decided that it was best if I always appeared even and okay. I could change to suit who ever I was talking to. After a while though, it all got to be damned tiring. It was also a way to build incredible resentments. Maybe I really didn't like you but I wanted you to like me and give me a lot of strokes. If I didn't get what I wanted, then I would blame someone else or think that I was totally unlovable. I would go to parties and try to fit in but really just wanted to run. Finally, after hitting my own bottom of emptiness, I decided that it was time to drop the acting routine and get honest about how I really felt.

Being in Al-Anon has meant that I don't have to wear any mask or act anymore. I'm worrying much less about whether everyone likes me. It's important for me to be myself and if people like me then I'm happy. If they don't, then I'm not going to change myself to create some image of what I think they would like. It has helped to come to the realization that I like myself the way that I am. However, I realize every day that not hiding behind a mask or being an actor is something that I have to work on. This work demands total honesty from me. What a relief it is to know that I don't have to pretend anymore.

"Each person is like an actor who wants to run the whole show; is forever trying to arrange the lights, the ballet, the scenery and the rest of the players in his own way. If his arrangements would only stay put, if only people would do as he wished, the show would be great. Everybody, including himself , would be pleased. Life would be wonderful......

What usually happens? The show doesn't come off very well. He begins to think life doesn't treat him right. He decides to exert himself more. He becomes on the next occasion, still more demanding or gracious as the case may be. Still the play does not suit him. Admitting he may be somewhat at fault, he is sure that other people are more to blame." from Alcoholics Anonymous.


  1. It's interesting that you say: "It's important for me to be myself and if people like me then I'm happy." It sounds like you've come a long way, but it will probably be better when you can say you're happy being yourself, and if other people happen to like you also, it's icing.

  2. I assume you wear no masks here on your blog and I like you, your writings and your compassion. Being annonymous" lets us really be our true selves dont you think?

    I think being chameleon like is just the nature of adult children, codependents and al-oners alike. We must not forget the three c's....



  3. Wow, I remember that for so many years I too would become a chameleon. The thing is, even if a hundred people liked me, I would obsess about the one who didn't! I am learning to love me no matter what, and I too still find it somewhat disconcerting when people seem to like who I am! I like it, it just feels weird still...
    For the record I like you- without your masks!

  4. I think it is human nature to want others to like us - but we take it to extremes. This is a wonderful post Syd. I am sure glad you are a blogger.

  5. You're right about it being icing on the cake. I am always pleased though when people like me. It is often unexpected when it happens. It is a good feeling. I wonder when someone likes me with the mask on, but when I am just being me and they like me, that's really nice.

  6. I don't think I've ever actually enjoyed telling people things I KNOW they don't want to hear, but I do have an inbuilt rebellious urge to be the black sheep of any group. Its my default response. But at the same time I am a bit of a purist when it comes to a subject I like, so perhaps there is a contradiction there. Whereas you sound like you stand to benefit from being more your own person, I can benefit from trying to conform more to social expectations of one sort or another. I'm not very good at wearing suits for instance, unless they are super !! tailored. Gawd knows where it comes from. Perhaps I have just never had to grow up. Generally I do not feel I need to conform to any other persons expectations. It has its advantages and disadvantages!
    Anyway, thanks for dropping by and posting. I'm up to my ! Eyes with stuff to do as I have 2 ! scary exams this month. So I'm TRYING to be a swot, even though its not very easy! So blogging has taken a back seat for the time being! Nice to read your post as usual. Hope you are having a dandy time!

  7. wow I can really really identify with this post. I had so many personalities, depending on the circumstances...when I started working a program it took a long time to peel it all away and figure out who the heck I really was. Turns out there was a little bit of me in all...I found new ways to discard the rest and get comfortable in my own skin. I think you are pretty amazing.


Let me know what you think. I like reading what you have to say.