We all have our own little routines every morning. Getting up, picking out clothes to wear, checking out how we look in the mirror. We are always looking at ourselves in the mirror, staring at our reflection. But what do we really see?
One night, after having a shower and changing into pajamas, I looked at my own reflection in the mirror. My hair was tied back in a ponytail, my skin was still glistening with moisturizer, my eyes had a hint of mascara leftover from earlier in the day. I stared at my reflection like I was looking at myself for the very first time.
How often do we truly look at ourselves in the mirror? Remove the cosmetics and make-up that we apply to our faces and look at ourselves as natural human beings? Is there even such a thing as a natural human being in today’s society?
Society has its take on the way that people should look. As life has changed and the world has continued to evolve, people feel the pressure to fit into society. Young people, in particular, are constantly examining what they can do with themselves to be popular and accepted. In a way, it’s as if two beings are living inside of us; the outside, the side that is expected by society. And the inside, the one being hidden for fear of rejection.
In the last entry of her diary dated 1st August 1944, Anne Frank wrote about the inner struggles that she faced with herself. She wrote about how she had always felt split in half. She hid her true self on the inside, covering it up with being boisterous and cheeky on the outside – the way others had expected her to be. As she said herself ‘no one knows Anne’s better side’ because she kept it hidden by a mask.
Masks have become common today; we all have to wear them to protect ourselves from the coronavirus. But we’re also wearing another type of mask, protecting our personalities. With these masks, we’re shielding ourselves from the scrutiny and disdain of others, pretending that we’re fine. In the opening scene of the controversial movie Joker, we see Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) sitting in front of a mirror, putting on clown make-up and turning his mouth up in a smile. As he is doing this, a tear rolls down his cheek which symbolizes his inner turmoil. It could be argued that we are all clowns – we use make-up to paint our faces to cover up how we feel on the inside. We feel this pressure to wear these masks to be accepted in society.
It is very easy to be fooled by the mask. It can be so convincing that many times, we do not see what’s hidden underneath until it is too late. It’s especially dangerous for young people – they feel forced to hide their problems, not say anything until eventually, they turn to self-harm and suicide.
In 2018, there were 730 noted suicides in people under the age of 25 in the United Kingdom. Imagine that; 730 suicides in one year. Every person who chooses to end their life is somebody’s child, sibling, grandchild, friend. There are people who love them without the mask, but many find it difficult to see that. They find it difficult because they feel that they cannot love the most important person in their lives – themselves.
Peer pressure and images on social media influence people to change their personalities, hide their true selves to be accepted. Anybody who is considered ‘different’ from how society wants them to be, is labeled as an outcast. That is extremely damaging to any individual.
There is a song called ‘Outside Looking In’ by Jordan Pruitt that perfectly highlights the struggles with acceptance and the pressure to be perfect. Those who are not considered perfect are cast aside by society. There is a moment in the music video where young people are sitting down to have their school photos taken. Their smiles – their masks – hide their inner turmoil.
We all wear masks. Not many of us realize it, but we subconsciously try to cover our true personalities to fit in. We try to blend in, become ‘part of the crowd.’ But are we truly happy with that? As a person who once tried to change herself to be accepted, I can say that you will never find true happiness if you cover your inner self with a mask.
Do not hide your true self. Do not cover yourself up with a mask. If you change yourself to fit into society, you are eventually going to want your own self back sooner or later. It is important that we love ourselves for who we are. Ditch the mask, let your true personality shine out.
Be true, be happy, be you.