Don’t Be Fooled By Me

Don’t be fooled by the face I wear, for I wear a thousand masks, masks that I’m afraid to take off, and none of them is me. Pretending is an art which is second nature to me – but don’t be fooled. I give the impression that I’m secure, sunny unruffled, 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. Please. My surface may seem smooth, but my surface is my mask. Beneath this lies no complacency. Beneath dwells the real me in confusion, in fear and aloneness. But I hide this. I don’t want anyone to know it. I panic at the thought of my weakness and fear of being exposed.

That’s why I frantically create a mask to hide behind, a nonchalant, sophisticated façade to help me to pretend, to shield me from the glance that knows. But such a glance is precisely my salvation, my only salvation, and I know it – that is, if it is followed by acceptance, if it is followed by Love; it is the only thing which will assure me of what I can’t assure myself – that I’m worth something. But I don’t tell you this. I don’t dare, I’m afraid to – afraid your glance will not be followed by acceptance, will not be followed by Love. I’m afraid that you will think less of me, that you will laugh at me, and your laugh would kill me! I’m afraid that deep down I’m nothing, that I’m no good, and that you see this and reject me.

So I play my game, my desperate game, with a façade of assurance without, and a trembling child within. And so begins the parade of masks. And my life becomes a front. I chatter idly to you of superficialities, and tell you everything that is really nothing, and nothing of what is everything of what is crying within me. So when I’m going through my routine, do not be fooled by what I’m saying, what I’d like to be able to say, what, for survival I need to say, but can’t. I dislike hiding – honestly! I dislike the phoney game I’m playing. I’d really like to be genuine and spontaneous and me. You’ve got to hold out your hand, even when that is the last thing that I seem to want.

Only you can wipe away from my eyes the blank stare of breathing death. Only you can call me to aliveness. Each time you are 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 sensitivity and sympathy and your power of understanding 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 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 person. Do not pass me by. Please do not pass my by. It will not be easy for you. A long conviction of worthlessness builds strong walls.

The more closely you approach me, the more blindly I strike back. But I am told that Love is stronger than walls, and in this lies my hope. Please try to beat down those walls with firm hands – but with gentle hands. My child inside is very sensitive. Who am I, you may wonder? I am someone you know very well, for I am every man that you meet, and I am every woman that you meet.