Are you for real?

credits: shutterstock

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?”


Blogging 101: Day twenty-one: build on your new-to-you-post

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.



  1. aishakhan0208 · May 7, 2014

    We are indeed multifaceted. There’s a Multiple Personality disorder, but that is not a Conscious choice. It’s a lot of Freudian stuff.But developing different faces during growing up years is part of an intrinsic Defence Mechanism, and Coping strategies with which most of the people are endowed with. I remember coming to a large metropolis from a small town, being as naive as possible.! Spent two miserable years equivalent to graduating from High School! And then there was Medical College or School , and boy was I terrified at the prospect. But I had grown up from fifteen to seventeen.and getting a tad bit streetwise. So I told myself over and over again that now I am going to stop acting timid or being a recluse. . Another thing which helped me tremendously was my indiscriminate reading during the gap year. I read up Harold Robbins and Sidney Sheldon and Tolsyoy and Shakespeare! The friends of my Medical fraternity(as in the tv show FRIENDS) are still my best buddies, even after 25 years. And it won’t be an exaggeration if I say that they are my lifeline.And now in my middle age, I change colours with the ease of a chameleon. Its survival and I believe it’s not the strongest that survive but those who are most adaptable!


    • NS · May 7, 2014

      That speaks to my heart! you explained it brilliantly. And thanks for sharing a small page of your life story.


  2. EAT ALL FRESH · May 7, 2014

    Wow, what a great post. This is really good. This remembers me of a song by Kansas “Carry on my wayward son” – Masquerading as a man with a reason, my charade is the event of the season.. And if I chose to be a wise man, it surely means that I dont know..

    Thanks for the share. Very well written and a point well made.. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • NS · May 7, 2014

      Thank you so much for your kind feedback. It always comes as a surprise when someone connects with my ramblings, which usually make more sense when they are brewing comfortably in my head. On paper, I can`t ever really say:).


  3. Khalid Rizvi · May 7, 2014

    Finding the mask that truly defines you is hard: “Bulla ki janay mein kaun?”


    • NS · May 7, 2014

      We are so many faces in one yet not one face is ever truly ours. Maybe some questions are better left unanswered.


  4. bik1012 · May 8, 2014

    Great post NS. You have an amazing express-ability!!! My take; these changing colours are our true colours. They make us what we are. Frankly I think nothing about acting out three, occasionally 4 plays every single day of my life and frankly move from one to the other seamlessly. There is no single “me”, and my multiplicity makes me what I am. So don’t fret and let every moment discover another facet of your personality and love yourself for the diversity. The human machine is truly amazing . Best wishes and keep us enriched with your writings

    Liked by 1 person

    • NS · May 8, 2014

      100% Agreed. But then one thing bothers me silly! If we are all essentially good and bad, then how can we judge ourselves or anyone for that matter? These stereotypical ‘standards’ of people that we have known all our lives, are they credible? Other than Allah this is nobody’s business. Only He knows whether a hardened criminal will ever come around. Only He knows whether a saint will turn off his switch one day and revert to the dark side.
      Maybe, there’s a percentage system that God has for us bewildering creatures. If all our masks define us, then maybe there’s a trail of percentages attached to each facet of our personalities. 0.2% Honest, 0.30% greedy, 0.80% materialistic, 0.10% murderous……


  5. elainecanham · May 11, 2014

    Asked myself the question: not sure what I answer I got.


    • NS · May 11, 2014

      Same here. Maybe that in itself is the answer.


  6. Wajeeha Khawar · May 12, 2014

    Nida… You are a magician with words…. I have never read/felt anything so POSITIVE about being Multifaceted…. I am proud to be one now….


    • NS · May 12, 2014

      Oh and you should be. That’s why we are perfectly imperfect creations of Allah.


  7. ZS · May 13, 2014

    Enjoyed reading your article ‘are you for real’. just right now out of the blue the thought struck that teachers here actually teach the kids to ‘code switch’ – meaning when you’re talking to your teacher you’ll not do so the same way you’ll do with a friend, code switch means putting on your identity as the situation/person you’re interacting with calls for. i looked it up online to be able to explain it to you better but somehow there mostly it refers to when bilinguals switch between two languages. i just thought you might find it interesting how its applied here in new orleans, esp in African-American communities.
    Also, psychologists are now realizing how context is important, so they dont look at students’ behavior in isolation but in larger pic. For e.g. a child from a middle class/upper class family who lives in a nice neighborhood and who pushes other kids, snatches lunch etc…will be considered aggressive and interventions put in place accordingly, the same behaviors in another child for e.g. from a low-income background, will be treated diffrently – ‘cos considering the dangerous neighborhood the kid comes from those behaviors for him are adaptive. Maybe its important to have those different identities – a child must fend for himself in a rough neighborhood, but in school follow rules, be calm and non-aggressive 


    • Nida S. · May 22, 2014

      This is such valuable insight! And it also gives a positive perspective. Making peace with different identities is one thing and doing it out of necessity is another, sometimes more important trait. Thanks for the wonderful information:)!


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