Take off the mask
It is the last day of July 2022. Many countries have now relaxed COVID rules, including the waiver of negative COVID tests before boarding flights and the wearing of masks in public. A man recently travelled by air, with his mask on. The passenger beside him gave him a strange look and told him to take his mask off.
Passenger: “Take off your mask; you don’t need it anymore.”
Man: “I know. I prefer to have a mask on. It helps me mind my business.”
We have all been wearing masks in the last two years. Apart from the supposed protection masks offer, I couldn’t agree more that the wearing of masks has helped control my urge to talk. I have also saved a considerable amount of money on makeup, as I didn’t need to wear it. The wearing of a mask isn’t a new phenomenon. People wear masks when they portray false images in public (and mostly on social media), in the pursuit of endorsement and acceptance. People often succumb to societal pressure and temptation and allow the world to convert them into its mould, by putting up fronts to remain relevant and acceptable.
This behaviour has reached an all-time high. Celebrities, influencers and many social media users have intensified efforts in competing for attention, putting up a show for the world to see and endorse. In the quest for likes, comments, and shares, people often lose their sense of personhood and identity. When companies do these, professionals in the corporate governance field call it greenwashing. When people do it, it is called, ‘personal branding’, ‘social media presence’ etc. This attention-seeking behaviour is superficial and can signify deeply-rooted identity issues. What we are inadvertently saying is this: “I am not happy with what I am on the inside.” “I will pretend I am somebody else.” The popular saying goes, “fake it till you make it”.
A true acceptance of oneself, flaws and vulnerabilities can enhance depth and authenticity in behaviour, which helps overcome the urge to put up a show. The process of acceptance is life-changing and rewarding. One of my go-to resources on identity work is Ralph Waldo Emerson’s quote: “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” Acceptance of oneself enables the learning and virtue needed to find peace amid turbulence and uncertainty.
Have you ever wondered why some musicians who have written and produced happy songs have mental disturbances and even commit suicide? You owe it to yourself to be comfortable revealing who you truly are with all your flaws. Acceptance is an inside job. Allow a few minutes of reflection on your motivation before: you post or share a memory on social media, comment during a meeting or make any image-laden decision. Connect with your vulnerabilities. Do the work in silence and watch the new and happier you emerge. Take off the mask.
Abosede Ijabadeniyi (PhD)
Research Director: Regenerate247 Research Solutions
Abosede is a market researcher and project manager who enjoys helping organisations flourish by proactively combating issues that hamper insights-driven customer engagement, business resilience and sustainable business practices. She was a Research Fellow at the Environmental Learning Research Centre (ELRC) at Rhodes University and a professional member of the Association for Business Communication (ABC) and the International Association for Impact Assessment (IAIA). Her research interests include Corporate Marketing, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), Social Impact Assessment and Behavioural Psychology.