There is a Future song called “Mask Off” that is not good. Genius tells me it’s about having the chutzpah to commit a crime with your mask off, bold-faced for all to see, and driven to such audacity by the apparently potent combination of percocet and molly. Two drugs, one mask off, let’s go. Not really my vibe, the whole drug-fueled crime spree thing, so the song doesn’t really grab hold of me. But I wear a mask.
Obviously. The mask motif or trope or metaphor has to rank high on the most overused whatever in art and life. We wear masks. We’re not ourselves. We cover over what we don’t want others to see. We mimic and copycat to look better. All this is obvious, so why am I writing about it?
On the Enneagram, a personality identifier I’m fairly comfortable with, I align most directly with the 3 personality type. 3s are innately driven by the expectations and reactions of others, in a way that can become crippling. In times or moments of unhealth, 3s will lie and cheat and do whatever it takes to present themselves well. On a more positive note, 3s can often be charming and inviting, as if they emit some gravitational pull that draws others to them. In any case, what’s ingrained in 3s, what really pulls their strings, is the need to achieve in the eyes of other people.
You can see how someone with a 3 personality type might quickly develop mask after mask, to the point that it obfuscates their real personality. To the point that “real personality” becomes a misnomer, something that cannot be (here comes that word again) achieved. In an era of self-exploration, it becomes extremely difficult to identify who or what my self is, since it takes on so many shapes depending on who I’m with or where we are or both. “Just be yourself” is a confusing recommendation for me.
My decision-making process happens strangely, too. Since I’m often caught up in others’ expectations, my decisions don’t always feel like my decisions. This is both strength and weakness. I’m a good listener because of this—I want, even need, to hear people out. But I’m also paralyzed at times, unsure of a direction because I’m too concerned with what people might think. Not all the time, but a lot.
So while Future’s “Mask Off” has literally nothing to do with the Enneagram or the way I interact with the world, and the mask motif drives me insane most of the time, it’s true: I need to take my mask off. I need honesty and authenticity. I need an identity unadulterated by my poorly perceived ideas of what others think of me. I need my mask off.
Brad Zwiers (’12) graduated from Calvin College in 2012 and Western Theological Seminary in 2015. He will not be graduating from any more schools. He often stares at books he wishes he could read but knows he will not finish and goes for long walks with his wife, Gwyn. Sometimes he plays basketball and always he follows the greatest sporting club in the world, Liverpool F.C.