Are You A Prisoner of Your Own Façade?

Each of us presents a façade to the outside world.  We put on a face to others to make ourselves appear stronger, happier, braver, more secure, more successful and/or more “together” than we feel inside.

We are sometimes required to be amenable to people we don’t like,  but we  put on the “friendly face” because we have to work with them or because they are members of our family or in our extended circle of friends.

This is normal and correct social behavior – in moderation.  We certainly don’t want to parade our insecurities and weaknesses for others to see and perhaps exploit. We don’t want to express every thought or feeling that passes through us.   We need to protect ourselves and sometimes the feelings of others.  Also, simply presenting a brave or happy front often makes us feel better,  as we see that “better” image of ourselves reflected back in the eyes of  others.

We must be careful, however, not to become prisoners of our façades.

Debbie played the “good wife” in an unhappy marriage for so many years,  by the time she was in her mid 50’s,  she didn’t even know who she was any more.  It took a lot of therapy,  many tears and finally a divorce to help her get back in touch with who she really was as a person.

To the world,  Alex is a real ladies’ man.  His credo is “wine, women and song.”   He’s never stayed in a relationship more than a few years, and none of them were exclusive.  Now in his early 40’s,  he feels alienated and lonely.  He has no close friends.  If he were to be totally honest with himself,  he might admit that he would like to be in love; to have a special person in his life; to have an intimate relationship.  His reputation,  unfortunately  precedes him…even with himself.  The façade has become is identity.  He always finds himself attracted to the same kind of women  —  beautiful but mostly shallow;  none of them worthy of commitment – and this frees him from actually having to MAKE a commitment.  To the outside, he’s happy- go-lucky;  inside,  his emotional life is an empty wasteland.

Dan has low self-esteem and inside, feels completely unworthy of the love and respect of others.  He is charming and amicable,  although he keeps people at arm’s length.  When he is finally alone,  he feels put-upon, over-extended and obligated to people he doesn’t even like.  Often,  he wishes he could say  “NO!  I don’t want to do that!” or “Just leave me alone!” but he has an almost pathological need to please;  to hide his “dark soul”  from others.   The effort of holding up this façade is psychically exhausting.  He often expresses the feeling of being “trapped in cage” that he is afraid to break out of.  (the fear is, if others saw his ‘real self” they would know how “unworthy” he really was, and then no one would like him.)

He is smart enough to see all this, and yet, remains incapable of freeing himself, which in turn makes him feel powerless, pathetic and even more unworthy of love and respect. The walls of his “prison” are the façade of his own making.

Façades are a necessary component of our social lives, but we must always take care to not to lose sight of our real selves and our own needs —  even if the ONLY one we are truthful to is our self.

(c) 2011  Adrienne E. Gusoff