Don't be fooled by me. Don't be fooled by the face I wear.
For I wear a mask, a thousand masks, masks that I'm afraid
to take off, and none of them is me. Pretending is an art
that's second nature with me, but don't be fooled. For God's
sake don't be fooled. I give you the impression that I'm
secure, that all is sunny and unruffled with me, within as
well as without, that confidence is my name and coolness my
game, that the water's calm and I'm in command, and that I
need no one.
But don't believe me. My surface may seem smooth, but my
surface is my mask, ever-varying and ever-concealing.
Beneath lies no complacence. Beneath lies confusion and fear
and aloneness. But I hide this. I don't want anybody to know
it. I panic at the thought of my weakness and fear being
exposed. That's why I frantically create a mask to hide
behind, a nonchalant sophisticated facade, to help me
pretend, to shield me from the glance that knows.
But such a glance is precisely my salvation. My only hope
and I know it. That is, if it's followed by acceptance, if
it's followed by love. It's the only thing that can liberate
me from myself, from my own self-built prison walls, from
the barriers I so painstakingly erect. It's the only thing
that will assure me of what I can't assure myself, that I'm
really worth something. But I don't tell you this. I don't
dare. I'm afraid to. I'm afraid your glance will not be
followed by acceptance, will not be followed by love. I'm
afraid you'll think less of me, that you'll laugh, and your
laugh would kill me. I'm afraid that deep-down I'm nothing,
that I'm just no good, and that you will see this and reject
So I play my game, my desperate pretending game, with a
facade of assurance without and a trembling child within. So
begins the glittering but empty parade of masks, and my life
becomes a front. I idly chatter to you in the suave tones of
surface talk. I tell you everything that's really nothing,
and nothing of what's everything, of what's crying within
me. So when I'm going through my routine, do not be fooled
by what I'm saying. Please listen carefully and try to hear
what I'm not saying; what I'd like to be able to say, what
for survival I need to say, but what I can't say. I don't
like to hide.
I don't like to play superficial phony games. I want to stop
playing them. I want to be genuine and spontaneous and me,
but you've got to help me. You've got to hold out your hand
even when that's the last thing I seem to want. Only you can
wipe away from my eyes the blank stare of the breathing
dead. Only you can call me into aliveness. Each time you're
kind and gentle and encouraging, each time you try to
understand because you really care, my heart begins to grow
wings, very small wings, very feeble wings but wings!
With your power to touch me into feeling, you can breathe
life into me. I want you to know that. I want you to know
how important you are to me, how you can be a creator - an
honest-to-God creator - of the person that is me if you
choose to. You alone can break down the wall behind which I
tremble, you alone can remove my mask, you alone can release
me from my shadow-world of panic and uncertainty, from my
lonely prison, if you choose. Please choose to. Do not pass
It will not be easy for you. A long conviction of
worthlessness builds strong walls. The nearer you approach
to me the blinder I may strike back. It's irrational, but
despite what the books say about man, often I am irrational.
I fight against the very thing that I cry out for. But I am
told that love is stronger than strong walls, and in this
lies my hope. Please try to beat down those walls with firm
hands but with gentle hands for a child is very sensitive.
Who am I, you may wonder? I am someone you know very well.
For I am every man you meet and I am every woman you meet.