Given that no two people could ever have exactly the same genetic make-up, psyches, personal history or outlook on the world, we needn’t do anything to set ourselves apart; we are unique enough by default. And in terms of how we experience the world, we are, in some sense, utterly alone. But despite our uniqueness, we all have a lot in common. Our similarities outnumber our differences.
For some reason, this is not celebrated in our society. To the contrary: There is a pressure, conscious or not, to appear as individual as possible, to stand out, to be different, to be someone that can neither be compared to, nor categorised with, anyone else.
Sadly, this separates us from one another. It is, at least in part, by our unnecessary intention and excessive efforts at differentiating ourselves from the majority that we become emotionally alienated from each other. We put on a mask to stand out, but it is that same mask that hinders others from seeing the real us, and blocks our own view of seeing them. We put others and ourselves into boxes, and we are more interested in how these boxes differ than how they are similar.
Clearly, culture favours certain masks over others, and the spectrum of acceptable cultural ideals and idols is very limited. The result is that many end up imitating the same pre-established ideal as the next person; an ideal that they haven’t personally authored, but uncritically adopted.
The result is that our masks, which were intended to make us stand out, are actually strikingly unoriginal, and by wearing them we reduce ourselves to something stereotypical — which is highly ironic, considering the intention.
Your mask does not convey your character or peculiarity, but your unoriginality. We possess a profundity that a mask could never express. Rather, the mask is a lampshade that stops your light from radiating unobstructed.
We cannot truly know ourselves or our own vastness as long as we limit ourselves to societal, contemporary ideals, and base our decisions on what we think others might expect of us.
I think much good would come from celebrating our existential similarity, rather than being embarrassed by it. Isn’t there something comforting in the fact that we share the same emotions, desires, opinions, and interests — that no matter how lonely or estranged you feel, somewhere, there is somebody who has felt the same? The strongest and most joyful connection between us can only be established when we expose ourselves, when we find the courage to explore and share our deepest thoughts and emotions with others, and look deeply enough into the other’s eye to see that we are the same. I can hardly think of anything more moving and inspiriting.
So take off your mask.