Who am i ?

How much of me is me?

Who am i really.

There comes a time when we truly ask ourselves, do i really know who i am?

Am i me? Or am i simply playing a character?

As I quote Shakespeare

“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players.
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts.”

(As You Like It, Act II, Scene 7)

We encounter many social interactions in our lifetime. We enter and exit many people’s lives as they do likewise, each encounter with a different response. [This is described as by sociologist Erving Goffman (1959) as a dramaturgical approach, whereby the way we behave is determined by the place, time and setting.]

I could be kind and forgiving to a stranger but hold a 5 year grudge because my brother ate my sandwich.

In school I am prim and proper, dressed well, with manners and values. However as soon as I reach home, I change into my lup sup (rubbish) pants and oversized shirt, lie on the couch with legs wide open.

Here you can see that we when we are in school we play our role of a student. We don our stage costume (uniform) enter the stage (school) and perform for the audience (peers and teachers). Our home is akin to the backstage of the set play, where we are able to remove our masks.

But why do we don a mask? A possible reason is that we behave a certain way in a certain setting to survive. We all have an instinct to survive. We take on roles such as the nice guy. From experience we know that when you are nice, people are less likely to target you and others are more willing to help you. This in a sense aids us in our survival in society as we turn potential enemies into allies.

Another reason is to maintain social order. We play out the roles given to us and we continue to do so in that setting, as in doing so we maintain social order. Imagine one day you as a student stopped behaving like a student but instead, a teacher. You call them by their names and ask them about work related documents. It disrupts the order of things. People are taken aback and find it difficult to respond as the cycle has been broken. You are essentially a character who has gone rogue, diverging from the script and confusing the rest of the actors, instilling panic on the stage.

Back to the question: Is it (my roles) in my personality?

That really depends. For some it is innate; for others the role changes us. There are times when the roles we play shape our personality. Such roles can even change the way we think, feel and perceive the world around us. Specific roles require us to have a certain type of personality. Maybe being a psychologist requires you to be patient while being a police officer requires you to be authoritative. Such individuals may not possess such traits in the beginning but they could very well grow to fit the shape of the mask. Previously his first response to danger would be to run. However being a police officer has somehow etched a huge sense of responsibility towards others into his personality. He helps others to flee while himself staying behind to control the situation. That responsibility for others that he feels has changed the decisions he made and will make.

We act out the roles allocated to us by society. One which we follow to survive and maintain social order. Some require us to adapt to fit the bill, others inadvertently shape the way we think and feel, slowly making its way into our personality. So for your next social encounter, ask yourselves what mask am I wearing today?

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