We all spend a good bit of time on social media. Whether it’s Insta, TikTok, Snap, Facebook… it absorbs a lot of our time. We spend most of that time watching rather than producing or commenting. In the supposedly social world online, we are consumers more than anything else.
Sometimes, we put our own thoughts, videos or comments ‘out there’ for others to consume. Hopefully, they react positively, showering our output with favorable reviews, likes, or, even better, comments and shares. Sometimes, we get the opposite: negative reviews. Sometimes it’s even worse – no response at all.
In these situations, regardless of the outcome, we are performing, aren’t we? We are putting some form of performance out into the medium to which, we hope, others will react. We are hoping to delight, confound, inform, entertain, or shout down.
Shakespeare has a widely known quote about this idea of performance:
“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players….”
The same can be said for our homes, classrooms, offices or bunks. Do we play the class clown? What about the studious one? Do we play the martyr. How about the ‘glitter’ or the ‘glue?’
Coming through middle school, I decided I’d play ‘the nice one.’ It helped me with the teachers, certainly, though it didn’t play as well with the other kids. Thankfully, I had two fantastic friends who stuck with me no matter what so it didn’t matter what the others said or thought.
But what happens when we stop performing? When we drop the mask?
‘No [one], for any considerable period, can wear one face to himself and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which may be true.’Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter
Normally, we drop the mask around those who make us feel most safe, the most like ourselves. It’s not about what you are trying to be for others’ approval or expectations. It’s just about being who we actually are.
That’s when we start really living.
Think about the times when you’ve been the most alive, the most excited to be yourself without exception or concern or fear or embellishment. Was it when you rocked a test? How about when you competed and won… or come up just short? Maybe it was in your bunk at camp surrounded by your people.
Looking back over my life to this point, I clearly see the times I wore a mask and performed: my first semester in college, the first graduate course I took as an undergrad, when I wanted to impress a young lady, my first (and second) summer running camp. None of those situations went well.
Lessons Make Us
Without those lessons, I could never have truly learned what makes me come alive.
What are those, you ask? For me, it’s spending time around the campfire with our campers and staff, wrestling with my boys, sitting on the couch with Kate and talking about something we’ve read or listened to, helping a young person grow into a competent, confident adult, cooking something really good….
Do I still perform from time to time? Yes. But those moments are much fewer and further between. And, I’m much better about recognizing those moments, dropping the mask, and returning to the living.
Performing all the time is exhausting. You’ve got to think about the audience, gauge their reactions and change accordingly. It’s a constant juggle and struggle in which even victories are tiring.
Instead, spend more time on being who you are right now or the person you are striving to be. (For example, I’m striving to be a person who eats more salads!) The people in your life who really matter will love you and support you and push you in all the right ways.
Who you are and who you will become is worthy of that love and support and pushing. So, let’s drop our masks, just be ourselves and enjoy it.
Have a great weekend.
(A great book on this subject is Awareness by Anthony De Mello.)