The Masks We All Wear

Mentors - Maxwell Maltz

We must sometimes put reins on our emotions and the actions
which flow from them.



Our primordial ancestors many centuries ago were savages. When two of them, searching the earth for food, came face to face in an open field, they would grit their teeth, jut out their lips in defiance and stare at each other menacingly until they finally came to blows. After the fight, the loser would feel fear and might weep unrestrainedly, while the worry on the victor's face would be gone, replaced by the laughter of success. When they met in the future, the beaten man would look fearful, maybe terrified, while the winner would wear the face of confidence.

We, in this civilized society, are also winners and losers, but the picture is grayer. Most of us know the taste of both success and failure and our days may be up and down.

As younger children, we are primitive, like our ancestors. If a boy of three takes a bad fall and skins his knee severely, he may howl in pain. If a girl of five receives a pretty birthday present, she may squeal with satisfaction and clap her hands. Most young children express what they feel openly.

In later childhood, in adolescence and as adults, we learn to wear masks, to hide our clean-cut feelings –or to modify them. This is part of the civilizing process; if we would live in a society that can endure, we cannot attack each other physically. We must sometimes put reins on our emotions and the actions which flow from them. We must think of more than our own well-being; our neighbors count too.

In certain situations, we must mask our feelings. If you don't like your boss, for example, and you need the money your job brings you to support yourself, a spouse and children –you might have to conceal your dislike to survive.

                    MANY PEOPLE WEAR MASKS WHEN THEY DON'T HAVE TO.                       

This is over-civilization and it leads to inhibition, confusion and weakening of the person's self-image.


The weak man wears a mask of stoicism that covers up his over-sensitiveness to injury.

The vain woman wears a mask of indifference that covers up her desire to be liked.

The man who feels that he has failed as a breadwinner may wear the mask of the
braggart, boring people with his tales of success.

The woman who wants to get married pretends that this is the
last thing that would ever enter her head.

These are just a few of the many masks that we wear. Sometimes they protect us from a snide remark or two, but they also isolate us from contact with the millions of people who appreciate fundamental honesty, a trait that is becoming more and more rare.


Maxwell Maltz; "The Magic Power of Self-Image Psychology" 1964


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