The Masks We Wear

We all wear masks as we interact with others. On one hand we might consider being anything other than our completely authentic true self as somehow deceitful or incongruous, but the masks serve an important purpose.

We use masks to protect the relationships we value.

Masks are often a recognition of the fact we’re all different from one another. They’re an accommodation knowing that not all aspects of “me” are appropriate for every “you,” yet I still value my relationship with you.

For example, I often joke that as someone who deals with technology every day profanity is like a second language. No, I don’t constantly swear like a sailor, but I’m not above using the correct word for the correct situation, even if it would be considered profane or offensive by some. Conversely profanity, in and of itself, does not offend me — quite literally it’s the thought that counts, not necessarily the words used to express it.

That being said, I avoid profanity on Ask Leo!. The mask I chose to wear when I interact with people on Ask Leo! avoids language that a significant portion of my audience might find offensive. While it’s impossible to avoid offending people completely, I do try to choose my words to fit the mask. The reasons are simple:

Not everyone is like me.

I value the relationship.

Thus what I have in my control is to interact in a way that avoids damaging the relationship by my use of language.

Now, all that being said, there are a class of people — friends and family, or as I like to think of it, friends that have become family — with whom I need wear no mask. With them I can be my completely authentic true self, unfiltered. They may or may not share my values, but they accept me for exactly what and who I am. While it’s about much more than just my choice of language, to extend that example: they accept me even if I happen to use profanity on occasion, whether they would choose to use it themselves or not. They see me, not just my choice of words.

I am grateful to have friends like this in my life. I also aspire to be one of those “friends like this” as well.

We all wear masks — it’s a part of being social, I think. But it’s oh so comforting when we can relax and take them off.