We all wear them, right? Our masks. In a way we become someone when we meet others, we define ourselves a little differently every time we meet someone new and we change according to the people around us. We occupy stereotypical roles, like the daughter, the lover, the best friend, the teacher and so on, and we choose to highlight the traits in our personality which fit the situation and the impression we want to give. This is probably not something we can turn of easily, it does affect some more than others though, people with asperger syndrome and autism for example, are not as inclined to do this automatically. However we have to play our roles, have to become different in contact with others, like the elements form in reacting with each other.
But there seems to be a big difference in how much people are the same on the inside as they show on the outside. Some temperaments are far more socially accepted than others, so naturally people with these temperaments can be more themselves without making a scandal. An explanation also comes with some people being introverts, and according to the MBTI you see their auxiliary function first when you meet them, which means that their ‘main personality trait’ is still hidden. Also self-confident and independent people do not care about others approval as much, so they are inclined to show more of themselves. It ought to be a lot more that weights in here, but my point is that there probably are huge differences in how much people show of themselves - for various reasons. Lately I have been working a lot on myself. I found that the gap between my inner self and how I portray myself outwards is far too big, and causes me to be quite unhappy. Now that I start changing it, I find amazing pleasure in the simplicity of being me.
I am a girl, but I’ve always been quite the tomboy (which I hear is normal for the NT temperament). I didn’t play with dolls, I hated pink and my friends throughout kindergarten and school were mostly boys. In middle school I was a total sport freak. I only wore sport clothes and made fun of cosmetics. I played football and basketball and started flying. Later I went on to become a martial arts instructor and blackbelt. This is in no way your usual fourteen year old girl. I had absolutely NOTHING to say to my female schoolmates, I though of them as messy and unstable, and myself as robust and sometimes rude. They talked about Grey’s anatomy, girls magazines, fashion and boys. I read Tom Clancy novels and flight manuals, and boys were friends, easy and fun to compete with - not for whatever fuzz the other girls wanted from them. It was quite the contrast, but I did not care too much back then. Only when I was about sixteen or seventeen years old it started to bother me. I fell in love, and for the first time ever I really cared what someone thought about me. It scared the shit out of me that this boy had some kind of power over me, and a strange and intense, undefined relationship between us lasted for almost four years. In this time I was absolutely eager to change. I am an introvert - INTJ, and I strongly believe that this boy is an ESFP. He was funny, witty and always on an adventure - and he loved the ladies, with all their makeup and nice dresses. I felt that there was something really wrong with me because I was so contained, a loner… maybe I had some sort of social damage? But I knew this could not be, because I am amazingly good at talking to people, I’ve always been the one everyone goes to if they want to be explained to themselves - but this is one on one, not popularity. Actually, in high school most of my social contact was like this. I didn’t have much to say to them, and the only way to keep up some kind of interesting interaction was for me to help people analyze themselves. So I became the psychologist, the trustworthy, kind one who listens and gives advise. In a way it was interesting and I learned a lot, but I also hated it. For many reasons I’ve later explored, I had boxed myself in, told myself that the one I am inside is not for the outside world, that my thoughts are inappropriate as they seem cold, calculated and totally different from the world around me.
Actually this is not something I know for a fact. I know it was true when I was fourteen. I remember the other girls complaining. But I changed a lot after that, I hid all that and put up a kind mask. I am always friendly, always positive. For some time I can fake being interested in all this girly stuff, which by the way still is totally meaningless to me other than as a tool, but I think I am not that edgy anymore. I know that people are surprised, almost shocked when they see me instructing martial arts, throwing and commanding people around in a harsh manner and then proceed to dinner in high heels and a nice dress, quite soft spoken. The female fighter gets more and more common and accepted, but it is still far from normal. In some people you can tell the moment you meet them, that they would be able to throw you to the moon, but I don’t think most people see that in me. I have become the cute, soft-spoken, caring girl - if you don’t ask for my interests or my real opinions (or know me really well). I find it easier this way, because it is more effective to be a wolf in sheep-disguise, than to scream that I am a wolf. Not that I am bad or dark or anything, I am just (or hope I am) realistic. No bullshit, nothing fluffy - but always prepared and hardly taken by surprise.
How much this is, or is not shining through to others bogs me a lot though. How do others perceive me?
As objective as I am trying to be, I am still and will always be, subjective - especially about myself. In the end there is not much left that actually is objective, and there is of course no objective perception of a person - not really. But I would want to know how I seem to others. I can confuse myself, with my many masks and faces, and sometimes I am not even sure what is what. Do other people have a better idea of how they seem to others? To me this is a mystery, despite my ability to analyze people and shift shapes according to the best way of communication with each person.
Anyway, I do see now that it is important not to change shape too much. I have to stay close to my real self most of the time if I am not to be drained. My choice to switch to science from a more direct ‘help people’ perspective has given me endless loads of energy. I’ve also cut contact with all the friends I was just helping, who were not able to give me anything back. Yes, it is quite harsh, but it was necessary for me to survive. In the end I know they also noticed my displeasure in being with them, and I believe they are better off finding friends who are really able to value them for who they are. I am also better off finding people and jobs where I do not need to restrain myself. It is amazingly fascinating and fun to be able to plainly do what interests me, without pretending or hiding my motives. I am still frequently surprised by all the pleasant perks it has to be who I want to be, without a huge mask to wear me down. Of course I still use the mask, but I want to use it less and less frequently, and be able to take it of with less effort every time. In the end I want to use it as a tool for better communication and understanding, not a prison or hindrance of any sort.