“…a completely new person! I come home and feel as if I have to shed the image of who I am at work to who I truly am when I get home. It’s ridiculous and just simply exhausting.” This is the glimpse of the conversation I overheard as I laid there on my grandmother’s couch attempting to open my heavy eyes after Christmas dinner. Once I persuaded my body to sit up, I awoke into a full-blown conversation. My family’s discussion had evolved into an intense and passionate conversation on how once they entered the workplace, they had to pull the mask off the shelf and play the “game.”
With each of them working in environments where they were the minority, they began to share examples of how they must act a certain way, dress a certain way or change their hair just to play the game of acceptance and get some respect.
Throughout the conversation I realized that each person was going through the battle of bringing together who they are authentically and what they want people to perceive them as. It is a constant internal fight that some of us have mastered, but the majority of us are currently pushing through. From work to friends to relationships, we constantly find ourselves trying to make sure we do not alter other people’s perceptions of us. Because if the true us happens to be unmasked, the world would clearly explode, right? Or that’s at least what our minds tell us.
With Brooklyn as my home, I have been fortunate enough to be able live and work, in a creative and diverse environment. Although I do not necessarily have to pull on the work or racial mask, the one I reach for the most is that of the “Perfect/Superwoman.”
From fighting all day to holding my tongue and playing myself down so others can shine, I always feel myself attempting to reach the place of perfection. And when it comes dating there are numerous women and men who pull out the defensive mask of, “I’m too hard to ever get hurt,” when in reality, they are yearning to have someone they can share their vulnerability with.
After listening to my family members, friends and even the worst and scariest person to deal with, myself, I realized that you will drive yourself insane if you continue to play the role of your representative. Eventually, you begin to feel robbed of a well-deserved Oscar role “For Best Outstanding Actor/Actress of the Year.” And the more you wear the mask the real you will begin to diminish and you will start to resent yourself. Moreover, if you wear the mask long enough, you will eventually find that you won’t be able to take it off because it has become a part of you.
While shifting to meet different situations is an important trait, the key is finding a balance between the two. Truly look at yourself and your representative to see what traits honestly and comfortably fit you. Now try to create a balance.
Life is too short for you to not embrace who you are as a person. It is not about being a puppet of your environment. At the end of the day, as you lay on your bed staring at the ceiling you should be able to come to peace with the one and only YOU.