• Jaycee La Bouche

The Masks We Wear

"We wear the mask that grins and lies

It hides the cheeks and shades the eyes"

Paul Laurence Dunbar (poet, novelist and playwright 1872 – 1906)

The Japanese have a saying that we have three faces. The first face, we show to the world. The second face, we show to our close friends and family. The third face, we never show anyone. It is this face that is the truest reflection of who we are. For many of us, wearing a mask has become a default setting that we switch on when we feel insecure, threatened or that we need to conform to the norm. My whole life from early childhood to present has been a quest to express my true authentic self. It's been a road of many twists and turns, unexpected plot twists and the peeling away of many layers.

As a child, I was so painfully shy, I could barely look people in the eyes. Starting secondary school gave me a fresh set of peers and an ideal opportunity to reinvent myself into a wacky, popular, outgoing personality. I excelled in sport, passed all10 O'levels and went on to be head girl. Yet inside I still felt insecure, flawed and inadequate. Out of all my subjects, drama was one of my least favorite. Even mentioning it now, makes me squirm. It represented the exact opposite of how I wanted to be - attracting attention to myself, in the spotlight and speaking in public. Cringe, cringe, cringe.

And so, it came as a complete surprise, when I discovered amateur dramatics in my twenties and I absolutely loved it! It gave me the chance to "be somebody" Whether it was the freedom to step in and out of different characters or the permission it gave me to pretend to be something I was not. I'm still not sure. Either way it was great escapism, a lot of fun and definitely a life skill worth having! And so, I continued throughout my life, adorning different masks for different situations to compensate feeling flawed and inadequate.

In her book The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, hospice nurse Bronnie Ware asked terminally ill patients what their biggest regret in life was. The number one regret was “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

Each of us is unique expression of who we are. Knowing this, how can we possibly fear not being good enough? We all have the right to express ourselves freely with passion and ease.The right to stand proud and say "this is ME" Surely then, the best course of action we can take, is to turn our insecurities into opportunities for personal growth, embrace our "imperfections"and focus on being the best possible version of our true selves.

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