One look at @overheardLA says it all. This Instagram account seems to capture so well the hilarious yet disingenuous ways we often function in this city. These ways of communicating with ourselves and others are succinctly embodied in witty two liners overheard in hip/vegan/current restaurants and the like. (Example: “Can we break up somewhere else? This is my favorite Whole Foods.” @overheardLA)
We all have masks, falsehoods that we present to the world to try to gain acceptance and love. Here though, in the land of glamour and wealth, the masks may be even thicker, with ever-present self-criticism well hidden underneath. The ideals to measure up to could fill the entire Griffith Observatory and spill right over onto the hiking trail enveloping the gorgeous selfie-taking dog owners in their Lulu’s and Nike’s on a Tuesday at 2pm (for those who don’t live here, be advised that work during the day has apparently long since gone out of fashion in these parts of the country). The threats to masculinity, femininity, and overall self-identity and esteem based on appearance, finances, social status, and whether or not you’ve managed to scarf down six bushels of kale in the form of raw-pressed juice are astounding.
When your mask takes over you
So if you’re feeling drained or detached, you’re not alone! The obsession over the perfect Insta photo is the millennial version of what esteemed psychologist and analyst Donald Winnicott dubbed “False-self.” False-self develops we focus on external reinforcements (versus true-self, where we look inward for our own values, beliefs and joys). Being vulnerable and authentic all the time can easily leave us quite raw and exposed, so we start etching masks of protection when we’re very little. These continue to develop throughout our lives; they can get us to foster certain abilities over others, and can eventually cause difficulty in truly connecting to others, or leave us feeling unfulfilled.
One way to cope? Start with awareness.
Seeing that we so easily lose ourselves outside of our own awareness, let’s try to intentionally create time to find what feels real to us.
What values do you feel authentically describe your truest self? Take a few moments to meditate on a list of things that you feel define your unmasked identity. If what comes to mind isn’t embodied in your day-to-day interactions—it may be time to be more mindful of the situations, times, and environments in which you put on the assortment of masks, and in which of these you may want to ditch them.
There are many internal barriers to vulnerability and authenticity, which are based on past experiences and the like (the stuff of which make for wonderful discussion in therapy!), but there are very real external and current ones as well. We can build awareness around both, by taking the time to reflect and practice self-compassion when we find ourselves making comparisons to inflated ideals, with which again, our lovely town is filled. In or out of our city of stars, authenticity is a wardrobe change we can all be encouraged to make more often.
If you find yourself inspired to seek a safe space to reflect on these matters, and are curious to find where your true-self and your false-self exist in your world, do not hesitate to contact us at (424) 371-5191 to schedule an intake appointment with one of our therapists to begin your journey to increased awareness and self-compassion.