Many of us live in cultures that place great emphasis on being seen. We value how we’re seen, where we’re seen, and, equally, how and where we’re not seen. Most of us know people who desperately desire to seen here (skiing in the Alps), or seen there (attending an invitation-only gala); and if we’re honest, we will likely admit to at least occasionally having desired to be seen in similar ways. This is just part of the human journey, the building of an ego. Who of us, especially when younger, wouldn’t admit to having wanted to be seen in our new car with the powerful engine, sunroof, and special rims? Who of us hasn’t desired to be seen achieving success or a great milestone? Is this not the same reason that people hang diplomas on walls and place trophies on mantels?
We can gain more understanding of our behaviour and its cause by examining how we were raised. Doing so will also help us realize that the patterns that we exhibit will often be inherited by our children. If we believe that we need to purchase upscale consumer items to be seenin a favourable light (one that apparently adds value to our conceptual self), we will, naturally, think it unimaginable to send little Johnny or Mary to school wearing generic sneakers. “Good God, our children might be ostracized by the ‘in’ group of children! Deep down, in the haunt of inner honesty, we may also be niggled by the belief that our children are a reflection of us. This ugly belief system will perpetuate itself, until we break free of its breeding pattern.
As children mature into adulthood, they often place intense pressure upon themselves to maintain the status of the conceptual self with whom they’ve identified. In truth, the image is only a mirage, a conceptual “me” that is fed to the point of becoming bloated with apparent realness. The thinking mind will always demand more—enough is never enough. There will always be another mountain to be climbed, another item to be purchased, another degree to be earned! Due to this, life seemingly becomes an opponent to be battled, rather than an ally to be enjoyed in the moment. Unless we teach our children (through example) how to live at a deeper level, we will continue to unconsciously invite them to life experiences that are frustrating and stressful.
This is not to state that we should become couch potatoes and live free of all our desires. The issue only becomes a problem when we confuse possessions and achievements with being who we essentially are. On a larger scale, this mentality affects humanity globally; for when we exist via the masks of ego, we carve people into groups, in much the same way that the fat is carved from a roast. Through ignorance-based judgement of gender, race, and nationality, we blindly accept that we’re united by this and separated by that. The majority of humans are drawing lines all the time—via achievements, possessions, or labels. We deem ourselves worthy or unworthy by being on this side of the line, or the other. It’s important that we realize that such lines are only drawn mentally; they have no existence in and of themselves.
When we attempt to live by this acquired mentality, we allow the flowing richness of life to swirl down the drain. We, as Awareness, are holding the plug; but many of us are too unaware to get out of our mind and stop—here and now—and place our attention in the heart of Presence, where it belongs. The mask of ego always believes that somewhere else, or another achievement, will offer a greater supposed reward.
For a period of time, this mechanism appears to work; but eventually it must end in defeat. How many times have we heard of actors who are so identified with fame that they commit suicide when their starring-role days are over? How many times have we heard of beautiful women who fall into deep depression when they are no longer valued for superficial beauty? Are we not also unwise to step into such self-made traps?
There’s a deeper way of Being in the world, and it’s easy to understand when we contemplate the nature of true friendship. True friends see beneath the mask of ego. They know and accept who we truly are inside; and we also recognize that dimension within them. When we become still and enter the depth of our Being, we realize that a thing, trophy, or accomplishment can never be who we actually are. To know this is one of the reasons that true friendships endure. It’s also why superficial friendships fall away.
So, how do we change the way that we view others and ourselves? One way is through becoming aware of our intentions. Every time that we become conscious of the reason behind our actions we bring more consciousness into the world. If we desire to buy a Gucci handbag, we might honestly ask ourselves whether it would matter if no one knew we owned it. Similarly, do we truly want that Ferrari because it’s such a great car? Then imagine owning it without others seeing you drive it.
Another way of deepening our relationship with the world is through a principle that was espoused by Ghandi. He said that we must become the change we want to see. If we want more love in the world, be more loving; if we want more peace in the world, be more peaceful. If we want to witness more honesty and authenticity in the world, be more authentic and honest. Here and now, be authentic, be honest, be who you truly are. There is everything to be gained, and truly nothing to be lost—the mask was never the real YOU in the first place.
If you’re interested, you can find more of my work at my personal blog at https://think2wice.me/.
With heartfelt regards,
Copyright © – 2022 – R. Arthur Russell
23 thoughts on “Beneath The Mask”
This is such a wonderful post Art – steeped in so much wisdom. “Unless we teach our children (through example) how to live at a deeper level, we will continue to unconsciously invite them to life experiences that are frustrating and stressful.” This reminds of another quote by Victor Frankl “When a man can’t find a deep sense of meaning, they distract themselves with pleasure.” Thank you Art 🙏
Thank you very much, AP2. Your kind words mean so much. Thanks also for sharing the quote by Victor Frankl. I posted a video on Youtube recently that may also be of service. If it resonates, fine; if it doesn’t fine.
Art, a beautifully written and very wise post! I fear that we all have our sources of vanity, although I have no desire to wear anything with a logo or designer’s name or drive a flashy car. <3
Thank you, Cheryl, for your kind comment. We must unlearn our learning related to apparent “i”-dentity; for it is false through and through. Wishing you a wonderful day! 🙏
It is so true what you say Art! But don’t you think that sometimes the mask may protect us?
Thank you for your comment, Cristina (I hope I have your name correct). I believe that if we exist (I cannot call it “living”), in the ignorant belief in actually being the “person,” we are highly vulnerable to suffering (dukkha). If, on the other hand, we recognize this as a dream within a dream, then we realize that our “character” is just that–a character rendered via Infinite Living Mind. I think the only real safety is in knowing Truth.
Interesting concepts. By the way, my name is Cristiana 😉
Thank you, Cristiana, for taking the time to share!
Indeed, that’s what “personas” are for, but being conscious of those personas, I think, is the difference between delusion and self-realization. Just my two cents. Great post, Art.
Just in case you’re interested, here’s a link to a short presentation I posted on YouTube today. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CBA9UCiHzSU
An extremely relevant post – thank you.
Leading by example is all I can do but in the UK our young people/teens are going through very tough times for a variety of reasons. The Covid pandemic has prevented them from living and expressing themselves, along with their peer group, in ways they would normally. Consequences result in more of their time being spent online – zoom, WhatsApp, Instagram, Tiktok included – increased social isolation, increased anxiety, increased depression, alongside decreased mental health facilities and support services.
So what many do is become obsessed with the social media influencers, their apparently perfect faces and perfect bodies, and perfect lives. Photographs are frequently filtered to achieve perfection – because to succeed in life they need to look perfect, right? Their perceptions of reality are clouded by the ubiquitous reality shows in which it’s possible to become successful, wealthy and live a glamorous lifestyle. It’s a phase they will grow out of as we did, parents think and hope. “They will get through it as we did” and in the meantime we lead by example; support and love.
But many of these young people aren’t getting through it. They’re desperate, suffering, lost. Some suffer from depression, some take tablets, some overdose, some succeed. It’s heartbreaking. It’s scary. It’s very worrying and sad.
For me it links in to your poignant post.
Apologies, I didn’t intend to ramble on so much!
I didn’t think you were rambling at all! Thank you for sharing some of your insights, about social media etc, and “reality” TV, etc, and the story that people are sold about how life should be. It is incredibly shallow, based upon illusion.
I appreciate your taking the time to comment, and thank you for your kind words about my article.
So much wisdom here. It can take years as an adult to shake off this entrenched behaviour and accept that we don’t need all these trappings to be successful. I love fast red cars and probably wouldn’t want to own one if no one else was going to see it!!!! But I am happy most of the time with less is more approach to life and when it is appropriate celebrate those achievements and milestones in my life that I have worked hard for.
Thank you for your kind comment! I agree, it can take years to shake of our earlier beliefs related to success/happiness as the false “i.” I appreciate your taking the time to comment! 🙏
There has to be a silver lining to this aging process Art!
Beautiful post, I agree with every thought expressed. The social media has further fuelled the desire to be seen or rather created a sort of a ‘ identity crisis ‘ syndrome in many a mind. People just want to be what they are not.
Stay blessed always 🌹🙏🌹
Great post. I read this and heaved a heavy sigh. There isn’t an end in sight if you really think about it. People put on a front to belong and to be accepted. Social media just made it worse. The more you are seen and “appreciated”, the more you want to be seen.
I couldn’t love this more if I tried! I especially loved the statement about confusing our achievements and what we own with being who we are. So well said and such a thoughtful post.
Thank you so much for such a kind comment–brought a big smile to my face! I’m glad that you enjoyed the article. 🙏🙂
I did! Thanks for sharing and I hope your day is wonderful
Love this. Very deep and inspiring. So true.
Thank you so much for this post.