Un‘masking’: ‘When Keeping it Real Goes Wrong’ and the Value of Being Honest with Yourself
Do you believe that you’re 100% honest with yourself each day? Are you always your 'authentic self' when you're with your friends, family, coworkers and your partner? Tough questions to throw at you, I know, but what do I really mean by them? When I was just beginning university, the popularity of the comedy sketch show ‘Chappelle’s Show’ starring Dave Chappelle, was sky high (sorry to those who haven’t seen it... and FYI, you missed out big time!). Because of the show, one of my go-to sayings, both jokingly and not, was that I was someone who ‘keeps it real'... turns out, I was wrong about that. That will make more sense as you read...
In one of my favourite sketches on the show, ‘When Keeping It Real Goes Wrong,’ Dave plays a character named Darius who is out with his girlfriend at a party. When Darius and his girlfriend are about to call it a night, another man yells to Darius’ girlfriend – ‘Yo Tanisha, it was good seeing you!’ The sketch then pauses and the narrator (hilarious by the way!) says – ‘Darius heard the comment and had a simple choice to make… Ignore what the man had said and take Tanisha home or stay at the party and ‘keep it real’.’ Darius then thinks for a second and, instead of brushing off the man’s comment and leaving the party to enjoy the rest of the night with Tanisha, he becomes angered and grabs the man by his collar, stating that he doesn’t appreciate his comment towards Tanisha and screaming to the man that he ‘keeps it real!’... leading to Darius getting beat up by the man. The sketch then fast forwards to Darius then being down and out, living with his grandmother as the comedy ensues. Comedy yes, but ‘keeping it real’… I will forewarn you, will always lead to things ‘going wrong’ down the road.
The reason I brought that sketch up was that we all, while not exactly in the manner of Darius, make decisions to behave in opposition to our ‘true self’ is each day. We think we are ‘keeping it real’ in regards to our actions, the decisions we make and interactions we have with others, but the fact is, we are not being as honest with ourselves as often we can be. When Darius paused for a second to think about what action to take when the man ‘hit on’ Tanisha, he knew he should and could have simply walked away and that Tanisha would not have questioned his ‘manliness’ for not fighting, but he instead ‘kept it real’ and did what he believed he was ‘supposed to do’ as a man protecting his girlfriend. What Darius did was put on his metaphorical ‘mask.’ This ‘mask’ is something that we as human beings all 'put on' and take off in certain situations… sometimes, we wear it more often than not.
But why do we wear these ‘masks’ in some situations and other times not? We wear our ‘mask’ when we feel a deep seeded fear of truly being ourselves… to avoid the unease and feelings of insecurity that truly being oneself can bring. We irrationally fear what the consequences of being our true selves will be. “If I don’t wear this ‘mask,’ will my reputation or social status change?” “Will I lose the respect of my peers?” “If I don’t put my ‘mask’ on, will I be revealing to other’s my insecurities and that I’m flawed?” These are all thoughts and feelings that our brains, consciously or unconsciously, consider when we choose to put on a ‘mask’ or not. What is perhaps the most irrational thing about wearing a ‘mask,' is that the people who truly respect and care for us want 'you' to be YOU, NOT who this ‘masked’ person is. These people, the only ones who should truly matter in your life, who genuinely love, respect and care for you, they want you to be one thing… they want you to be YOU. What they don’t want you do is ‘keep it real.’
When we wear a ‘mask,’ those moments do NOT result in feelings of true self-respect or self-acceptance and it stunts our growth as human beings. What we are doing in these instances is actually living out the inauthentic parts of our lives. In other words, we are being our ‘inauthentic self.’ Many psychologists call these inauthentic aspects of ourselves we present to other’s as those moments when we are wearing a ‘mask.’
Our fast paced and pressure-filled world of technology and social media, coupled with the belief projected to us by the media that we are ‘all special’… and should be recognized and acknowledged at all times in order to feel fulfilled, has increased our already existing need for validation. Constantly chasing validation may seem like it brings joy and fulfillment to our lives, but in all honesty, it is a hole that cannot be filled… one that only feeds our insecurities. It is when we recognize and not give into this hunger for validation that we are able to be completely honest with ourselves... That we can accept (or work on) our insecurities and not constantly feel the need to chase this ‘validation’ from the world. Whether it is pursuing and working in a specific career, only because your parent’s expected you to do it, only dating the men/women you are ‘expected to date,’ having a group of friends who really aren’t your ‘true’ friends or stepping up to fight a man/woman who was hitting on your partner when you could have simply walked away, you will only come to know what true self-respect and acceptance is once you can leave your mask off, act in a way that holds true to our core values, and make decisions that we are truly comfortable with deep inside. It’s only when we stop seeking constant validation from the world by ‘keeping it real,’ and when we can be fully honest with ourselves, that we are free to be our authentic self… something the universe and those important to us truly want as well.