We all put on social masks. They’re the personae, or facades we put on when we step out the door in the morning. It’s the person we are in the workplace, or when we attend a public meeting; on the sports field; at a social gathering, and on Facebook.
But sometimes I wonder if there’s such a thing as ‘authentic’ anymore? Have we become so comfortable with our social masks, we are that mask? Or, do we not only fulfil a role; we are the role? It’s become one and the same thing. There’s no difference.
Don’t get me wrong; social masks have their place. They help us survive in life. They protect us, promote us, and focus us on what we want to be, or feel we ought to be. To a certain extent, putting on our social mask gets us out of bed in the morning.
But what concerns me, is the loss of who we really are. I’ve counselled a lot of people who only know themselves in their role, or they only know the identity they assume on Facebook.
But is this who we really are? More to the point, do we even know who we are anymore? Have we lost touch with our true selves?
I believe that if human beings aren’t going to be ‘lost,’ we need moments of real connection with other human beings in order to find ourselves. As human beings, we’re created to be relational, and I mean moments of face-to-face relational, without the mask, without distractions, and even without the technology. But in the society we’re building today, we risk losing sight of this.
Meaningful connection, as the word indicates, builds meaning into our lives, and the lives of others. Lack of meaningful connection, on an ongoing basis, can lead to isolation and depression. Or it can also lead to self-centredness and even self-delusion.
So how do we build meaningful, genuine connection with other human beings?
Let’s start in small ways. Why not start by putting aside your smart phone, unplugging your MP3 player, and genuinely listening to the person talking to you. Doing three things at once, or even two things, is not listening. So tune out the other channels, and focus.
Or, why not try genuinely caring when someone shares some personal hardship or adversity with you? Put yourself in their shoes and imagine how awful it would be. Feel their pain. Go on. It might be you one day, who needs someone to really care!
Or why not verbalise the affirmation that’s on the tip of your tongue? What’s so hard about encouraging someone and making them feel better? And no, I don’t mean flattery. I mean a genuine compliment; something you really mean, and something the other person needs to hear.
These meaningful gestures make our lives more purposeful and integrated. They are genuine, authentic connections with other human beings. Come on people; let’s start being who we were created to be!