When I started my professional career in the 1980s, my sister gave me an article from Time Magazine entitled "Fearing the Mask May Fall". It was about perfectionists in the workplace and their fear of being discovered for who they are: human and fallible. As I recall, the article intimated the need to wear the mask was as essential to the person's sense of self as it was to maintaining others' perceptions of their performance. Authenticity was the solution: acknowledgement and acceptance of our own limitations, not as shocking imperfections, but rather as common and acceptable reflections of our humanity.
I had an experience that later solidified this concept. I was a low-level employee summoned to give a presentation to the board of a Mexican consortium. The one American executive didn't speak Spanish and the board was tired of conducting all business in English. I was the only person in the American organization who spoke Spanish so I was chosen to give a presentation and ameliorate the situation. Talk about intimidating!
The board members were all bilingual, having been educated at Harvard, Stanford and MIT. They were also leaders of extremely successful Mexican companies; many of them were billionaires. I was so far out of my league it was frightening, but I put on my best face and tried to act as if I belonged there. Mid-way through my presentation I stumbled trying to pronounce a word. I started the sentence again and stumbled again. Two more nervous, unsuccessful attempts to pronounce the word and the stillness in the room was deafening. Stubborn me, rather than skip it, I chose to pronounce the word syllable by syllable: man-te-ni-mi-en-to!
I was shocked when they broke out in applause! It took me a moment to realize that my mistake, my struggle, had endeared me to the audience. Every one of those board members had been in a similar situation, giving a speech in their non-native tongue and having stumbled on a word. My mask had fallen, my authentic, fallible self had been revealed, and the result was a stronger bond with the people around me!
I had the profound realization that our masks don't protect us, they isolate us. From that point on I have endeavored to unify my internal self and my external projection. Kate's challenge is a wonderful opportunity for reflection and analysis. Have I been successful at integrating my true self and its expression? How would I visually depict this ongoing struggle?
Once again, I am stretched intellectually and artistically by this group. Thank you all; I can't wait until the gallery reveal!