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Who the Hell are You? 10 Ways to Step out from Behind the Mask

Who the hell are you? Are you for real? That’s the message I got when I had forgotten my twitter password for the umpteenth time. And it got me thinking (something I have been known to do on occasions). Do we really know who we are?

Next time you pass by a mirror, just stay there for a while and look at the person staring back at you. Is that you or an image of you? This is how you present yourself to the world and yet does your inner self match your outer self?

Once upon a long time ago, there was a man who liked to fool around and play jokes on everyone. He used to put on an extraordinary mask that spanned an array of emotions from laughing and crying to grimacing. He took great pleasure in playing the fool and frightening everyone. Some people laughed at his antics, some people cried. All he cared about was the adrenalin rush and excitement that their reactions gave him.

He used to pop his mask on a few times a week, but as his need for excitement grew, he would wear the mask every day until he was wearing it all the time, even sleeping in it. He wandered around for years behind the mask until one day, he felt strange. He felt cut off from himself, isolated and realized that something was missing.

The next day he bumped into a lovely lady and it was love at first sight. But when he reached out to her, she screamed and ran away, frightened by his weird and shocking mask.

‘Stop’ he cried,’ this isn’t me!’ And he desperately tried to wrench the mask from his face. But he could not remove it because it was him. The mask was stuck to his face, it had become his face.

He tried to tell others the dreadful thing that had happened to him but no one was interested in listening because they had all done the exact same thing as him. They were all wearing masks, all playing at being people they were not.

Who are you? Are you wearing a mask?

There are times in our lives when we might put on a mask to stop our true selves from being seen. We do this out of a fear that if people really knew us they would not like us. We have a real fear of being exposed for the charlatan we think we are. But it is a great emotional burden pretending to be someone we are not. It is a very tiring and draining experience. How long has it been since you looked inside to experience your real self?

When I did my training to be a psychotherapist I had to have my own therapy and I remember this question. Who are you? I answered that I was a mother. Rap on the knuckles, Carole, that is not who you are that is what you do. Very often we cannot answer the question who the hell are you? Because we do not know.

Our real selves has been squashed and taken over by our false selves. It is up to us to redress the balance.

Do you spend much of your time putting other’s needs before your own?

Are you very conscious of your appearance? Do you hate your job? Do you ever do anything that you really want to do?

You may have put on a mask to protect yourself at some stage in your life but is it really necessary anymore? The mask has done its’ job and now it is only a barrier to your future happiness.

10 ways to step out from behind the mask

  • Cut the crap of pretending to others that you are happy when you are not
  • If you are in an unhappy relationship, either seek counseling or leave
  • If you hate your job, start looking for a new one or re skill in a new area
  • Delegate chores or work to others when you are overwhelmed
  • Learn to say No frequently
  • Stop being Mr. or Mrs. nice guy
  • Stop rescuing others, try rescuing yourself first
  • Take a risk and let others see the real you, if they don’t like it, tough
  • Take time out to meditate or take a yoga class
  • If all else fails, see a psychotherapist

About the Author:

Carole Lyden is a psychotherapist and writer living in Perth, Western Australia. PsycheBuzz is a website that will help you: Feel more positive about yourself. Add depth and meaning to your life. Enrich and empower your life. Attempt to ease your mental distress. Please join me there.

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35 Responses to Who the Hell are You? 10 Ways to Step out from Behind the Mask

  1. Anonymous says:

    Hi. I liked this article very much. I will try the 10 ways and see how it goes. Most of these 10 ways sound like something I should realize on my own from the beginning .
    Saying no is hard sometimes, especially when I’m cornered and feel like rejecting makes me a bad person. My boyfriend’s mind is much stronger…(excuse my English), and he does whatever he wants without feeling pressured and rejects when he wants to, comments people when he likes to…and at the end, he is with people that approve of him, without him being changed. I really admire that! 

    Thank you for this great article. :)

  2. Dwayne@TWC says:

    Great post, Carole. Most people will never step from behind their masks because they are too afraid of being judged by others but for the ones who want to step from behind and will this post is a great start for them. Good job.

  3. Dwayne@TWC says:

    Great post, Carole. Most people will never step from behind their masks because they are too afraid of being judged by others but for the ones who want to step from behind and will this post is a great start for them. Good job.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I agree, fear of being judged (and rejected) controls many aspects of our lives. I find that as I get older I care less about being judged. I guess that is the beauty of wisdom! It’s still difficult to do, as it is part of everyday society. It is something I have to consciously practice each day.

  5. Rajivkumarluv says:

    Hi Carole,
    The article touched upon a very important issue. I have seen some people having a number of masks and they are able to change from one to another in a blink of an eye. I think we don’t feel that bad with strangers who wear masks, but when our closest people wear masks, it really hurts. The relationship sours and everything becomes very superficial.

  6. Guest says:

    great advice on how to be selfish

  7. Dawnhild says:

    I especially liked when you wrote about being a mother as “what you do” and not who you are.  I am a relatively new empty-nester trying to answer the question of who I am.  I’ve always answered I’m a mother, too.  I’m kind of excited to figure out who I am though…

  8. Justin Mazza says:

    Love it Carole. When did wearing a mask become the norm in the first place? I make it a point to let others feel welcome being their authentic self around me. It’s hard to trust people who are always hiding behind their mask aka Personality.

  9. Great post!  One thing I found helpful after years of masked madness was to read a bunch of personality books and take their quizzes.  That seems like such a shallow thing to do, but I found that it really helped to clarify who I was deep down, instead of who I was trying to be.  I didn’t care about what the books defined me as–you know, whether I was an ENTJ or such–but the individual answers to the questions worked as a kind of affirmation for my real personality.

  10. adel says:

    This is nice article, yeah we have to be true to ourselves and not hide from the mask that is temporarily protecting us, we don’t have to please everybody by pretending to be someone that we are not.

    Zero Dramas

  11. Carole Lyden says:

    Thanks Junsai,

     take baby steps with new ways of being. You can do it. warm regardsCarole

  12. Carole Lyden says:

    I appreciate you commenting Dwayne. It is not always easy to change behaviour.

  13. Carole Lyden says:

    Hi bluskyygirl,  one of the advantages of getting older, we don’t really worry  so much about everyone else.

  14. Joan says:

    Great post Carole
    , touching many points during our lives which will greatly help people, including myself.
    thanks mate Joan

  15. Carole Lyden says:

    Yes indeed. Being selfish after a lifetime of doing for others is really healthy.

  16. Carole Lyden says:

    Hi Dawnhild,

    yes it is a wonderful journey that we can take into ourselves.

  17. Carole Lyden says:

    Hi Dawnhild,

    yes it is a wonderful journey that we can take into ourselves.

  18. Carole Lyden says:

    Hi Justin, some times it is really hard to know whether others are being authentic or not.

  19. Carole Lyden says:

    Hi Justin, some times it is really hard to know whether others are being authentic or not.

  20. Carole Lyden says:

    Hi Mark,

    personal growth is an ongoing process. You are not your diagnosis you are you. Good luck in your journey.

  21. Carole Lyden says:

    Hi adel, yes we do hve to be true to ourselves, sometimes it takes us a while to figure this out.

  22. Carole Lyden says:

    Hi Joan, thanks very much for your comment.



  23. Steve Rice says:

    Powerful!  This tendency….to don a mask and present ourselves as we believe others want to see us is so pervasive in our modern society.  

    Over the past few years I have dedicated myself to removing the mask, but it is fascinating to me how deep the layers of “masking” go!  Like the man in your allegory, I remove one mask to find it is merely hiding another.  

    The habit of hiding is a difficult one to replace.

  24. Brad says:

    Hi Carole.

    Brad from DFW here.

    Your discussion here reminds me of a book I read in college:  Why Am I Afraid To Tell You Who I Am?

    As I recall, the basic answer was fear.  Fear that if I take my mask off I’ll be showing you all I’ve got and I can’t bear the idea of you not liking it.

    I’m sure I deal with that fear as do others.  The older I get, though, the less I care.

    Thanks for the good post!

  25. Beverleychitty says:

    That is so true, I can definately relate to all that you have said in your artical it is me to a tee, I do not say NO enough, thanks for all the 10 tips, i will do exactly that,  regards Bev

  26. Beverleychitty says:

    Carole could you send me a copy so I can read this.   I really love it.

  27. Cara Randall says:

    Nice article! Encourages me to cut through the bull and really think about who I am and who I want people to see.

  28. Show others what you really feel about them or a certain situation, if you are mad then be it.

  29. Ivanbaden says:

    This is SOOO true!!  I am currently putting on a mask constantly, hiding my real self because, as you said, I have the fear of not being liked / accepted. Thing ( or problem?) is , it’s working great, people love me!! I am 18 and in high school and I used to be very shy and drawn back, now I have many friends, girls like me a lot because of my outgoing, funny attitude that is the mask. If sometimes my real self comes out poeple ask whats wrong? This is so sick actually. The high school system rejects people like the real me so many kids (like me) as to put on this mask. BUT where is the line between self improvement and putting on a mask? See, I don’t LIKE being shy , drawn back (my real self) actually, I HATE it. it sucks. The mask(?) is so much better!It works for me.I like it. This is probably a wrong way to live but hell, life is so much better + I don’t have to do any effort to put the mask on, it is not (that) emotionally draining. I think as long as you know that you are not the mask you are fine. My family and knows who I really am and a few close friends, although they haven’t mentioned me being different sometimes. So yea that is my story and I hope that you can answer my question.

    Great article!!

  30. Anonymus says:

    Yes Ivan-bin-laden,
    i see you ( Metaphor: Avatar style). You have come a long way. its time to rest.

  31. Xin says:

    Awesome post, Carole! One of your bullets reminds of a line that Oprah use to say: No is a complete sentence. I’ve always loved that line. Take a second. Check inside and say exactly what you mean. If the answer is no, then just say it. :)

  32. Jamesg says:

    There is such a thing as being ‘positively selfish’ :)

  33. Great article Carole. It’s so important to be oneself instead of enduring the constant dissonance that comes from living a life that is not one’s own.

  34. Pingback: How to love yourself. 11 baby steps to building a relationship with yourself

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