Actors in the ancient Greek theatres would use masks to portray different characters. Even today, the international symbol for theatres is a pair of masks, one happy, one sad. The ancient Greek word for actor was hypokrites. It came to refer to one playing false, or putting on a pretence. It’s where we get the English word hypocrite.
We have looked at the value of solitude, confidantes, and support networks. We have looked at how to deal with other people’s choices when they impact on our lives. And we have looked at the things that we can control – our choices.
But that raises the question of who we are, because none of us would want to be known as a hypocrite.
The problem with trying to be something or someone else is that we are never going to be comfortable with the role. The best way to get comfortable is simply to be yourself; no pretence; no masks, no hypocrisy. Just be yourself. It is the most natural thing for us.
Of course, it’s always possible that we don’t like the person that we have become. Notice: The person that we have become. This is deliberate. We may have experienced a traumatic upbringing. Maybe our parents were always arguing. Or maybe we were surrounded by people with characteristics that we cannot respect, now that we know better. Maybe our learned behaviour leaves a lot to be desired.
If we learned that behaviour, we can learn new behaviour. We can change. If we have become that person, we can become someone else. But we have to be genuine in this. No masks. No pretence. No hypocrisy.
“Where do I begin?”
A good place to start is your bed. Yes. Your bed. Before getting out of bed each morning, spend a few minutes calming your breathing. Then meditate (think deeply) about a time when you were not happy with your interaction with a close friend; it might even be your partner, parents, children, or siblings. Now, in what way could you have acted differently, or what could you have said differently, that would allow you to look back on that interaction with pleasure? How can you change to make you happier with yourself?
Notice that these changes are in the way that you behave. You cannot change other people. If there are to be changes, it’s up to you to make them.
The problem with this, of course, is that if we were raised to believe that the best way to solve issues was through confrontation, we may not even realise that we have a problem. We may feel uncomfortable in our interactions, but not know why.
Ask for help
If you have this feeling, have the courage to ask for help. Seek out the experience of someone else; preferably a trusted friend who has been through the process of change. Learn from their experience. If they are genuine, they will be more than happy to support you as you change.
This brings us to another way to change. It involves our interest in others. But that’s a discussion in its own right.