Hiding our true self can be good…REALLY???

wearing masks

by Kenneth Justice

~ Last week at coffee I ran into an older gentleman who has become a somewhat regular reader of my blog this past year, “Kenneth, I really enjoy reading your articles but I feel that you keep quite a guard up regarding your personal life….have you ever thought about writing more openly and intimately about your personal life?” he asked.

For those who are regular readers of mine, you know that I’m not a big fan of ‘wearing masks’ i.e. putting on a fake face when your at work, at church, or wherever…and trying to be someone other than who you really are. People tend to ‘put on masks’ in order to try and impress others;

—-) People put on masks to make others think their lives are perfect

—-) People put on masks to try to mask emotional pain that they don’t want to face

—-) People put on masks to hide the scars from their past

Thus, on many different levels putting on a mask is a way to deceive others; to make others think that you are someone else other than who you really are……..and it would seem to me that if you’re wearing a mask to deceive others than you may want to consider reevaluating your priorities in life.

However, not all instances of ‘wearing a mask’ are necessarily bad………

During my first month of working as a substance abuse counselor a couple years ago I had a client who would come to my group counseling session twice a week and would never talk. He didn’t want to be there but was court mandated to be in my group session. It was around the 9th or 10th session that he finally opened up and it was then that he shared the story of his life long addiction to alcohol and crack cocaine and his most recent crime that had landed him in prison; he had tried killing his wife by stabbing her five times in the chest. After sharing his story in the group he asked to meet with me in a private session where he expounded on the story and asked me quite seriously, “Kenneth, what I’m here to ask you is how you think I can get back together with my wife after what I have done?

Of course, this was a difficult position I was in because if the wife was sitting across from me privately I would of probably told her to run as far away from this guy as she could; don’t let back in your house a guy who stabbed you five times! However, because of my role as his counselor I didn’t believe it was any of my business to defuse this guy’s attempt at reconnecting his wife; the final path I chose was to gently change the conversation away from his wife and back to his own problem of chemical addiction.

Working as a counselor forced me to wear masks; I had to often suppress what I really wanted to say to someone.…and instead listen to them or tell them what was ‘best’ for them to hear. In a way; because I couldn’t simply tell my clients what my opinion was on every single issue in their life…….there were many times that they weren’t really seeing my true self.

On the same token, because I was often working with people who had dangerous past lives; I also had to suppress many details of my private life. There was no way I could ever open up in such a way that could lead these people to being able to find out where I lived, worked, or hung out….because my highest priority was to protect all of my friends, family and loved ones.

I recall one evening that I ran into an ex-client of mine from the jail I used to work at…..I was hanging out downtown and felt someone tapping me on the shoulder. “Kenneth!” the stranger exclaimed. And although I didn’t recognize him I had a good idea that he was likely one of the ex-inmates from the jail, “I just wanted to thank you for all that you did for me, I’ve been clean for two years now” he said. Thankfully, that incident turned out okay, but for a singular moment I was a bit concerned due to how that situation could of turned out for the worse.

Thus, as I sat there with the older gentleman at coffee I explained to him many of the things I’ve written here today, “When it comes to my close friends I’m actually an open book. There’s really nothing I hide….but due to the nature of writing articles to so many people that I’ve never met and have no idea what they are like……out of safety I have to keep certain details of my life private

Yet even though I keep the details of my private life off the table…….I nonetheless strive to write as openly and honestly as I can.

.We live in a strange new era….

—-) Through Facebook people share some of the most personal elements of their lives

—-) Through Twitter some people give a 24/7 constant streaming update of what they are doing at the moment

—-) Through Instagram people post pictures of themselves naked

We live in an era where personal lives are right out in the open. People even post videos of themselves on the Internet having sex with their significant others for the entire world to see.

And while I want to be careful not to criticize or condemn anyone who chooses to do those things……I guess I simply want to explain that I’m still a little bit old fashioned when it comes to sharing the intimate details of my personal life. What I’m trying to say is that you won’t see any naked pictures of me on the Internet any time soon….

I really need another coffee,


p.s. if you are on the Internet New Years Day stop back by and check out my announcement for the New Year 🙂

Categories: Culture & Society

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85 replies

  1. Another amazing post, Kenneth. I relate to these issues and — as always — I learned a lot. Thanks so much.

  2. Thanks for another great post…and for not posting naked pictures of yourself. 🙂

  3. A blogger I met on a dating site recently contacted my daughter on Facebook. She and I are very close, so we discussed it right away. This man justifies terrorizing a 21 year old. I think you are right to never mention your children’s or wife’s names in the blog. Even when you know a person face to face, you do not know them.

    • Yea, in college I was taught by most of my psychology professors to keep all of my personal life under wraps because of things like what you mentioned….unfortunately that means some people may think things about me that aren’t necessarily true since I don’t mention personal things….but I would rather people think something that is not true about me than know the address of where I live!

    • regarding how “people may think things that are not true” – well it sure is amazing how folks fill in the gaps when they something is left unsaid – amazing – whew –

      ok, looking forward to the new year’s day news (I think – as long as it is good news)….

  4. I love your post. I wrote about the exact same issue. I got the idea to write about “masks” because when you are in high school, you see a lot of them. Here’s the link to my post: http://mybeautifullife96.wordpress.com/2013/12/17/those-beautiful-masks/

  5. I understand, Kenneth, how you feel for being an old fashioned 🙂 Me too


  6. “The highest priority is to protect. ..” Yes, hold that near and dear.

  7. You are a very wise man! Thanks for the post. Being frank and open doesn’t mean we always have to reveal what we’re thinking. And thank goodness for that.

  8. We all ear masks. I am here as ranting crow. But That s just the visual aspect. What ever words I type, they are Me. my true me. My opinions my thoughts my voice. I poor my heart and soul into them.
    I think you are just that. A entity who speaks his mind. Who shows his true self through words spoken. Not shown.

    If by any change you find it offensive just let me know.

  9. I absolutely agree with this! And I have to say HaHa to Kim13’s comment! (Thank you for not posting any naked pictures of yourself). I am all for internet safety.

  10. I’m not sure it’s really even masks. “Who we are” varies depending on environment and circumstance. When with close friends or family, I’m outgoing and silly and willing to voice my opinions. Put me in a room with people I don’t know well, and my introverted self clams up instantly. Both versions are “really me.” You’re just being your true blog self…your fully-clothed blog self. 😉

  11. Regarding this:

    People put on masks to make others think their lives are perfect

    —-) People put on masks to try mask emotional pain that they don’t want to face

    —-) People put on masks to hide the scars from their past

    People who are always in your face with their problems are seen as whiny, narcissistic and otherwise irritating.

  12. My first undergrad practicum was at a clinic for court mandated drug rehab. I met so many different people then and throughout my social work career. And then it was easy; maintain boundaries, these are clients not friends. But here, in this blogosphere, I have found I want to be free of those restrictions. No boundaries. No walls. It can be so cathartic! However, I am going to do my best with this new blog to maintain some anonymity. Great post!

  13. What a coincidence, because last night I had a long talk with new friend and we couldn’t break the middle wall. I like this post. I’m a close book, I like walls unless I know the person. Not that I’m a shamed of my life, but they can read me wrong, use and share my info with stalkers. It’s also painful to read every chapter of my book, so I choose to keep it private. Is that a bad thing? It’s like women like to wear make up, to look better, feel better, but that doesn’t mean that we can really cover up all, people can see through and far, just won’t bother to make comments about it.
    We live one life split in few parts.. Public life, private life and maybe secret life too.
    Great post as usual. Enjoy the last days of the year😊

  14. I work at a psychiatric hospital and can very much relate to your trepidation regarding boundaries with the people you serve. It’s not uncommon for me to see a former patient out and about in the community, especially those who are homeless, but there have been a few times where someone has actually stopped to engage me or track me down on facebook. It’s just NOT somewhere you want to go.
    I try to write as honestly as possible as well, but when you don’t fully know your audience it is wise to keep certain things kept under wraps. Great thoughts in this post.

  15. I am fairly open about who I am and what I do, but when I am not, it’s because certain things about me are on a “need to know” basis. When we are close friends, and you ask me in a way that I know you care, you will find out other things about me.

    Thanks for another interesting post.


  16. I so relate to this as a retired police officer. The one advantage I have to males is as a female I can put on makeup and look completely different. I never wore makeup at work, so when I ran into a guy at Home Depot I had arrested, I didn’t worry quite so much; though I was extremely wary.
    We all wear masks to some degree; even those who post their lives online. I think they are masking their true selves and only posting what they want others to think about them. If they had good self esteem they wouldn’t have to try to get the rest of us to pay attention to them.

  17. Masks on a blog can help people to hear the words for what they are instead of making assumptions. If Paris Hilton starting writing a human rights blog, there is no way I would be able to get past who she was. She could write the most interesting articles, and I would roll my eyes at every one because of assumptions I’ve already made about her.

    Blogging is a unique platform where we can say whatever behind a mask we create. In this way, our words shine brighter than our personal lives.

  18. Something I have been thinking about a lot in recent days actually ~ TOO much ‘openness’ can lead to some not so nice instances. Always that balance to be found hey. My area is the on line thing more than any other – lines get blurred at times and I am trying to be a little more ‘restrained’ – and actually going over some old posts to check that there is no details that I would not want a stranger to know. Its obvious I know – but we all slip up and there is no harm in doing a double check 😀 (no naked pictures yet fortunately!! LOL!)

    Nice write!

    • “Something I have been thinking about a lot in recent days actually ~ TOO much ‘openness’ can lead to some not so nice instances”

      exactly. We have to be careful what were saying and to who we are saying it…..we can’t always walk around and completely be ourselves or it can lead to annoying situations.

    • Hmmm – yip – I am in the process of answering an interview someone sent me – Now I value honesty above all else to the point where I don’t appreciate lying through omission very much. But honestly – jeepers…You would think I had learned this lesson by now. It is almost like the ‘does my butt look big in this dress conundrum’ 😉
      Think I shall bare your wise words in mind when answering the questions posed 😀 Funny stuff happens hey.

  19. I agree with your post and found it very enlightening. I’d like to add that sometimes we can reveal a part of ourselves in the very mask that we wear.

  20. It is kinda funny you wrote this. Yesterday I received a call, “Are you missing a chihuahua?” To which my reply was, “Uhm not that I know, but since you are calling me… maybe. Did you scan his chip? His name is Uff Da and my name is Ole Haug.” Come to find out someone had dropped my dog off at the vet down the street from my house. I get there and I tell them, “Thank you sooo much. I am glad I put a chip in him so you could call me.” “Oh we didn’t get your number off his chip. St. Louis?” “Oh no that’s where I used to live. How did you get my number?” “We hunted you down. We called St. Louis and they couldn’t help us. Then we noticed it was not a common name at all and our manager told us to look you up on facebook. From there we noticed a picture of the dog, noticed you had commented he had been at the other vet down the street, called them, found out where you worked and then called that number.” All of this was possible because I keep my facebook posts public. My home address and phone number is not public, but the rest of me is. There are ups and downs to keeping your information public I guess 🙂

  21. I wear a mask because I am ugly and have a face only a mother could love. I am joking…about wearing a mask.

  22. Why is it when I was reading the part about masks I couldn’t help but see Ben Stein from “The Mask” talking about masks being a metaphor to poor Stanley Ipkiss who is actually having an issue with a real mask? I don’t know. 🙂 Anyway, I think it’s good to NOT put everything out there for the world to see. I am like you… a bit old fashioned and feel that some elements of life should still be private… especially nudity!! LOL. No one really wants to see that geez. 🙂 I have, myself, toyed with the idea of posting more information about certain things but I have ended up not doing so because of the politics in my family and how strained certain relations are, it would be disastrous. There’s no need to fan those flames at all. This is why some of my posts have taken on a slightly different tone than some so I could be honest about something without giving away harmful details. I too, try and write honestly without giving away things that just shouldn’t be for one reason or another.

    • I like that movie 🙂

      And its not that I’m against nudity….just don’t want to share my nudity on the Internet 😉 To be honest, i think a lot of people would probably get naked for playboy or whatever if they were offered the kind of money that celebrities get to do it; incentives tend to change our position on certain issues.

    • Maybe for some but not me lol. I’m far to self-conscious for that. I’m not much for nudity unless it’s for certain things like the shower and that’s about it lol. I’m odd and actually like clothes. 🙂

  23. I agree that there are certain situations which require a person to wear a mask. But in life in general, a mask shouldn’t need to be worn. Sadly, many people still do. I regret to admit that at times I’m included in that. The mask is my protective coating against those people who I haven’t yet grown to trust. So, why are we so afraid to let others see us? My answer is that we don’t trust them enough to believe that they will love and accept us, unconditionally.

    • “My answer is that we don’t trust them enough to believe that they will love and accept us, unconditionally.”

      very true. There are a lot of people out there who are chomping at the bit to argue and go on the attack so often times I am careful to say certain things that i would normally say…simply because i don’t feel like getting into arguments.

  24. naked pictures of me on the Internet any time soon….

    Yeah me neither my wife put the kabosh to all that years ago after I had a heart attack. . . .

  25. We all have masks. We might think of them as “hats” but they’re really masks. My biggest ones are Mom, Grandma, Dog Grandma, Lawyer, and Social Worker. I am different with different friends since I can’t laugh at grammar jokes with most people, but I can with my writing partner, and so on and so forth. What I can do (we can do) is be as genuine as possible within the framework of the appropriate mask we wear. Sometimes I even get to swap out masks such as when my grandson was so upset about not being able to get to sleep and I sat down and told him about being a kid and having problems sleeping – so we connected and I think I bored him to sleep. 😉 I may be closer to “me” as Dog Grandma than any other state of being.

    • I like this analogy – even though my version of masks is slightly different – but I love how you sum up roles, the differing societal angles, and different things we share with different folks – just so well said!

    • “I am different with different friends since I can’t laugh at grammar jokes with most people, but I can with my writing partner, and so on and so forth. What I can do (we can do) is be as genuine as possible within the framework of the appropriate mask we wear”

      well said! I have some friends that are very sensitive about even the simplest and cleanest of jokes…so i am careful to never share jokes when i am with them 🙂

  26. Yet another well-thought out and intelligent post! (I have to tell you that discovering your blog is one of the high lights of 2013.)

    I have a personal journey blog and it doesn’t require much for me to count the number of dedicated readers that I have. It is nothing like yours, and that’s all good. Nevertheless, the question of how much to share is a constant concern for me. I am inherently, an open and honest person, but the web can be a scary place, I guess that it all comes down to each of us choosing our own comfort level, beyond which is a no-no.

    Blessings, Lydia

  27. How we define masks is something to consider – because while I like the similarity of masks being like hats we wear (noted by anotherboomerblog) I see them slightly different – hmmm

    anyhow, I also know that when masked are dropped (in the right context) it can lead to building TRUST.

    oh, and culture monk, there is a cool charcoal and watercolor art piece by Paul Klee – called “Broken Mask” (1934) and it totally fits in with this post – and I have always wondered about the piece – like if Klee is showing humiliation BECAUSE a mask was broken – or is it a sense of peace and relief to have the mask broken…. hmmm

  28. I put a copy of Paul Klee’s BROKEN MASK picture on my blog (with my triple shot friday photo) – and linked this post – I think they go so well together!


  29. also – have you heard of snapchat yet?

    • Yea, there have been a bunch of stories in the news lately about snap chat. From what I understand its supposed to be an app that deletes the photo after five seconds but I guess it doesn’t work out that way because teenagers have been using it to send naked pics and somehow those pics end up getting passed all around school…..Ive never used the app but that’s what I’ve read….sounds nutty to me.

    • They are forgetting that people can still lift and distribute those photos within 5 seconds– some of them the very people they are entrusting them to.

      Slashdot has been saying LOADS on the topic in an article titled “Could an Erasable Internet Kill Google?” I think this comment (by crutchy) stands out in particular: “The idea of an erasable internet is laughable. If you post your personal information to someone else’s server, then you have lost control of it… end of story.”

    • thanks jaklumen – I will check that out that link – and thanks for sharing crutchy’s comment here – well said

  30. great post friend. I totally understand the masking of who we are. At large masking ourselves is really to protect ourselves and those we love at times. I think we all enjoy sharing intimate parts of ourselves to friends and family or people we love. But at the same time in certain situations we have to edit ourselves so as not to get ourselves into any problems. Largely it has to do with the context and situation. But great post.

  31. Ok, just had to share one more comment with all this “mask” talk – I will never forget listening to someone share about Macria Clark, the prosecutor in the famous OJ Simpson case – and Ms. Clark kept all of her life VERY private – so private that people she worked with did not even know whether or not she was married!! I think this overlaps with what “anotherboomerblog” commented about (above) – and maybe where the masks become so ingrained with different life roles – hmmm – gets me thinking about it for sure.

    anyhow, Marica Clark’s professional mask may have hurt her with views among the jury – as she was noted as being cold and brash – but I guess that Clark gained popularity with working mother’s around the world when she began getting emotional about some evening hours that were being scheduled for the case – and almost crying she said, “I can’t be here, Your Honor.” –

    and Hawthorne said it so well….
    “No man, for any considerable period, can wear one face to himself and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which may be the true.” (Scarlet Letter)

  32. Excellent Post!

  33. I think when people enjoy reading a blogger, they want to know more about them, because at that point the blogger in a way feels like a friend to the reader. However everyone deserves their privacy and I understand you not wanting to share every little detail.


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