Ever heard of the Russian nesting doll , Matryoshka? They are fascinating dolls placed one inside the other in decreased sizes. Almost like us fancy creatures don’t you think (not as dolled up of course). We have so many faces that are hiding behind one another. These are images that we sketch for, and according to, the people around us. Personalities within personalities. Layers behind layers.
“Be yourself!” “Don’t be fake!” These are such overrated terms. What is ‘being yourself’ anyway? Are you for real when you try to impress your friends by trying to dress like them, or walk and talk like them? Or Are you for real when your boss can’t stand the outspoken you, so you pull out another face? A more befitting picture that won’t burst the boss’s glassy ego. How about that woman at your friend’s wedding who you thought was so over the top and crude. Only a week later you saw her working behind a cash counter, as polite and timid as a deer. Or is that drunkard man real whose abusive tongue paralyzes many but most of his hours are spent feeding the homeless? Or how real is that chaste, pious man the world sings praises for when in the dark of the night he mistreats his wife like nobody’s business. Or is that girl real who got married thinking she was a pretty decent human being. But one fine day, she realized how wrong she was. People didn’t see her goodness. She was a complete imposter in her own eyes. Her only refuge was the custom-made mold she was expected to fit into. Her existing face was not good enough. It was time to order a new copy which was easy because shipping was instant and free. So who’s real and who isn’t? Is anyone really fake or are they just doing what everyone does? Change faces faster than a chameleon changes its color.
Almost throughout my elementary and high school years, I was one of the popular kids. Sports, music, studies, I was mostly at the top of my game. Then we moved towards the end of my high school and I was thrown into a new place with an alien system and cruel glances. I was in a torturous parallel dimension where nothing made sense. That was by far the worst year of my school life. Ever. Pimply craters were furiously invading my skin. I had a huge bout of low self-esteem and my classfellow’s indifference didn’t help much. Each day I thought about my old school, my old friends, my old face. The real me. Or so I thought. Because I sure wasn’t this weak, ugly, good for nothing kid, was I? It took me almost a year to get back into my game, when students around me began to realize I wasn’t too bad after all. The ‘cool’ kids started making friends with me because I got good grades and was assigned the president of the school’s sports club. How about that! I was around such gracious people! Now that I look back I didn’t do much except rummage through my supply of masks that I thought would help me get through. The shy girl. The book worm. The nobody. The athlete. The friend. My first encounter with the master of shuffling faces that I had become.
That year in school, as the unwanted new kid I learned a number of things that now make sense. I hid behind all those layers because I wanted to fit in. I wanted my old, glorified self back. It all levels down to how I viewed myself in the eyes of others. Self-confidence can be an overrated term but sometimes that is all you need to preserve what’s left of yourself.Because if you don’t save your essential core from withering away, then no matter how many layers you reveal, you will never stop running, or hiding.
That is why the Matryoshka doll will always amaze me. You never know what to expect when you dig deeper. Keep peeling, keep pulling out. What’s behind face number one? What’s behind face number two? Can anyone really tell?
Many will answer that its the way we have been created. Mufti-faceted beings with the most complex of processes breeding within. But then what sets us apart from each other if all of us have the same gazillion faces that appear when we sense a distress signal? What defines our quintessential nature? How do I know what my true face is? I can only ask the same questions over and over again. And after that I will go back to my business of shuffling faces the next morning, because the hunt for finding the real me is sort of a losing battle for now.
But do me a favor, ask yourselves this today. “Are you for real?”
This post is inspired from a quote I wrote about writing. About how we re-invent ourselves over and over again. It got me thinking and this entire concept of multiple faces and masks came to mind.