The Japanese have a philosophy of three faces. It’s the idea that we are not the same person at all time. We show different parts of ourselves to different people. I can recognize this pattern in myself. Furthermore, when I look closely at the people around me, I can see it in them too. I often wonder if social media distorts this theory, as people project an image out into the world that is exaggerated at best and a downright lie at worst. What can that do to our perspective of ourselves?
What Do the Masks Mean?
The three faces theory goes like this…
The First Face
It’s the one you show the world. The public image you portray, true or false. This is what people think about you. You do certain things to avoid being judged by society or having them look down on you. This is where you want to be like your peers. Our social media presence gets cultivated here as well.
The Second Face
The one you show family and close friends. It’s a truer version of who you might really be at your core. It’s the face that changes the most, as you shift from friend group to family. This face can change as you grow from a child to an adult as we face different challenges along the way. Your closest people see this, but it is not your whole true you because you can still be judged by others.
The Third Face
It’s the one you never show anyone. It is your true essence, who you really are without the judgments of the world. Many people don’t even get to this point in their lives. You may be scared to see this face because we spend so much time in our masks. Do you ever look at yourself and invest in who you are? You have to ask yourself, how can anyone love me if I don’t love myself. When you’re alone in this face you have to ask how can I be confident in who I truly am. All successes and failures begin and end in this mask.
Click here for another great article that explains this in greater detail.
My Mask to the World
For as long as I can remember I was told by my father, “Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about.” Emotions are weak and we can’t show the world our weaknesses or the world will devour us.
Consequently, I shut down the deeper feelings. I don’t allow myself to process what they mean. Feelings become a burden to me. When I feel sad I hear my father’s voice in my head. I used to push the emotions deep down and show the world a brave, unaffected face. I pushed them so far down that I would drink, too much. Maybe I would eat the whole cake in one sitting. One of my three faces would show the strong non-affected woman who has her shit together. Which I can say now, I rarely do.
For the same reason, I would portray the badass at the bar. Knowing there wasn’t another soul in the place more of a tough mother trucker than me. That portrait was all on the outside. But, what happens to you on the inside when you’re all alone and bury who you are so deep that even you forget sometimes?
I’m sad to say it has taken most of my life to undo the idea that emotions are weak, to start to work on dealing with the present and letting go of the past. It’s still a painful process to sit with my feelings. I want to crawl out of my skin and flee. But I sit and swallow down every instinct in me to run and hide. Sometimes I even cry, though it still rarely happens in front of people.
This makes me think about all the young ones on social media and what their futures hold when the admiration fades.
Social Media and the Three Faces
As I think of my own struggles, I watch my two girls. Both love social media and are on it constantly no matter how many roadblocks I put in their way. I am lucky because they both have a good strong sense of self and love who they are. But, I recall a short time ago when my oldest was in high school. She voluntarily disconnected from Instagram. She recognized the damage it was doing to her self-worth. When she decided to log back on, her attitude was different. She recognized the fake and unrealistic portrait of her peers.
Unfortunately, many kids are not able to do the same. The slow damage to their sense of self and self-worth begins to erode who they really are. Some symptoms are the desire to stay in the spotlight. If they aren’t they feel worthless and unimportant. They begin to feel like they have to always look perfect for the next great post. Validation from the online community has become the most important thing in their lives. An addiction in a sense.
When you begin to seek approval from outside of you and your actions it can lead to low self-esteem, jealousy, eating disorders to keep the perfect image, and all sorts of addictions to unhealthy things. This all sets up such an unrealistic expectation of life and all the good it has to offer.
What can you do to combat all this crazy?
The first step is to be mindful. Not one of my easy tasks, but to look objectively at the images and life that is being shown. Make a game of spotting the photoshop. It is all around. When you start to compare yourself, take a break, and unplug. Journal your feelings, and look at what you have, not what you don’t.
Why Should We Care About Our Three Faces?
After the last few years of work on myself, I have concluded that of the three faces, the most important face is the one we show ourselves. This is the place where all the rest of ourselves comes from. In this space is where we feel our feelings, explore the meaning of life, and set our goals. This is where we should never consider anyone else. The third face is where your soul lives. It should not be judged by you. In the third face, you can build your self-esteem and improve the face that you show to your friends and family and consequently the whole world.
Take my advice, do not waste your time on self-loathing and wanting more than you have. Set amazing goals, feel your feelings, and love who you are at your core.
Here are a few other articles I think you may enjoy on this subject;