The Stones said it best when they advised, “You can’t always get what you want. But if you try sometimes you just might find…you get what you need.” That’s really what life is all about, right? Getting our basic needs met; the rest of our time is spent trying on different masks, cloaked in various costumes being who we need to be to realize those primal goals.
Well, maybe that’s a bit over-simplistic, but at the core of survival is selfishness…as it should be. And how we go about getting what we want is where we, as humans, have become extremely resourceful. We don masks, we wear hats; we exude personae.
The word persona comes from the Greeks and literally means, “mask.” Persona is a term given to describe the versions of self that all individuals possess. When I read that definition, I sat back and tried to count the many masks of me…it’s enlightening to see who I have become and how I protected when that survival instinct kicked in.
I reflect on the many costumes I have worn in my life. For Halloween at least I’ve been a doctor, a warrior and a clown for Halloween one time or another and as I think about it, they are all outward expressions of the fixer, fighter and fool within. I can honestly say that every mask I wear in the workplace, whether it’s flattering or not is a part of who I am as well. What mask are you wearing at work right now? The negotiator or the bully? The pacifist or the blow hard? The counselor or the gossiper?
The amount of energy it takes to be a positive character over a negative one is the same, so why are there so many witches and grim reaper’s lingering around? Chances are it boils down to the basic needs of that person, their primal instinct. More than likely their insecurities run so deep that their only protection is to ward people off with their hexes and spells. When we can look at negative people from that perspective; you can almost have compassion for them where there once was none. But like the Rolling Stones sang, you can’t always get what you WANT, but you DO get what you need. In this case, it is survive, the need to get by.
So next time you run across one of those characters at the office, outfitted in an invisible mask of doom with matching cloak of gloom, take a moment to find out what their basic need might be. Look behind their mask to what they’re avoiding and chances are you will find a frightened, self-doubting person who only owns one “survival” costume.
This caring persona will allow you to peer at them through the eyes of your new mask of kindness.