All the World’s a Stage and All the Men and Women merely Players – Which part are you playing? – by Jaq White
One of the questions many of us ask ourselves at some point in our lives is, “Who am I?”
Throughout life, we take on many roles, each one relating to whichever situation we find ourselves in at any moment ; son/daughter, student, teacher, wife, husband, mother, father, financial advisor, scientist, fitness instructor, footballer – of course the list is endless. These roles may not even be “official”; how often do you hear people commenting on their home life with expressions of how they feel like a nurse, or a hotel owner (if you have teenagers!) or a dustman, odd-job man, cleaner, cook, taxi driver etc? If we look closely, we are each playing many roles throughout our day. If we could imagine ourselves in the relevant outfit, or uniform or costume for each character and role we play throughout the day, imagine how many costume changes you have to go through in 24 hours.
Add to this how often we also adopt roles for ourselves in order to “give a good impression”. This has also been referred to as “putting on a mask”. We may want to be seen as generous, kind, caring, strong, charitable, fun-loving etc. yet at times feel quite the opposite, though will go out of our way to give the impression of what we believe we should be. We put on the masks.
At the end of each day, you may have put on quite a few costumes and masks, but have you remembered to take them off? If we don’t take them off, we start to convince ourselves that this is who we really are. “I am a banker” “I am a policeman” “I am a mother”. We start to identify with a particular role, and pile the costumes and masks on top of each other, until we forget who is underneath all of the disguises. Even when we try to unmask ourselves, to try and remember who we are, we have become so attached to some of the masks and outfits that we are convinced they are really “me”. What we are forgetting, is why we put them on in the first place. When did we put on that “brave face”? What about the warrior mask? The little girl lost mask? Why do we think we have to play the Fool? We each have our own, and some are more difficult to recognise than others.
We can start by developing an awareness of our reactions – how we react to certain people in a different way to others, what pushes my angry button, my rude button, my generous button, my patient button or impatient button, my panic button, my flirt button, my protective button, my Fool button… and so on. We are actors, playing a role, and our actions and reactions are part of the role.
When we can identify the actions with the role, and question why we acted in such a way, why we put on that mask or invisible costume, we start to become more aware of ourselves, and to recognise our true nature. It isn’t always a pleasant discovery, and you won’t always like what you discover about yourself as you strip away all the layers, but there are many ways of addressing that and of learning to embrace the parts you thought you needed to hide or to ignore.
In ancient teachings, this was referred to as removing your garments without being ashamed – think of the old story of Adam and Eve, naked in the garden until they became ashamed and tried to cover themselves. Like many wise teachings, this story became twisted until it was unrecogniseable and its deeper meaning was all but forgotten.
“Auditions are being held for you to be yourself. Apply within.”