One aspect of human nature that I’ve observed over many years of dealing with people is that we all have a mask. This is the front we display to our friends, family and, in many cases, to ourselves. In some instances, this mask is thin, in others it’s more like a thick amour that is so built into us that penetrating it is almost impossible and attempting to remove would would result in removing most of the skin and probably killing the person in the process.

We all need a mask of some kind. There are things we would say to our spouse or our friends that we would not say to the people we work with for instance. We present a different facet of ourselves when we are in different situations. However, the problem comes when we are so taken in by our mask that we lose contact with our real selves, what psychologists call the authentic self. I’ve written before about being yourself but what stops us coming in contact with our real selves is the mask that we use to present ourselves to other people. We use up a lot of energy in maintaining this mask. It cuts us off from insights and abilities we could otherwise draw on. It has been said that the prime reason for depression is lack of a satisfactory relationship with the authentic self.

The best way of understanding your relationship with he your own trues self is by observing other people and seeing their masks. Sometimes the people who we most respect, who seem to be the most considerate or most emotionally stable of the people we know, are those who have developed their mask very well. Sometimes these are the people that present to my office with depression or anxiety because they they know that behind the mask is a fragile human being who is lost.

By observing others we can get insights into ourselves.