Exploring my identity with masks

I am looking across the room at eight people facing me. 

They are quietly staring back, observing me, waiting for me to say something. 

I’m feeling uncertain.

My hands are slightly trembling. 

I’m on the edge of something. 

Some of the group know me well. They are friends and colleagues and I feel like I have something to prove. The next three minutes needs to be insightful and funny. 

When I really care, I gravitate towards the safe ground. When it matters, I present a version of myself that is warm, likeable and charming. For many people, it’s the only version they know. 

But that can’t happen today. The whole point of the next three minutes is to explore a different version of myself.

Steve Chapman is facilitating our ‘mask workshop’ and now he’s along side me. He holds a mirror to my face so I can meet John Smith. 

I am John Smith.

John is my creation, brought to life with a theatrical mask, wig and tweed jacket . He has a wide quizzical face, a mop of grey hair and flat cap.

I take a deep breath. 

A smile spreads across my lips. There’s a rush of blood to my head. My fingers curl into fists.

I turn back towards the group…The hesitation is gone. 

I am asked to do a presentation on the topic of socks, and so I begin.

Suddenly I’m feeling mischievous. 

I don’t want to do a f@&*ing presentation on socks.

I want everyone to take off their shoes.

There’s a certainty in my voice.

Everyone takes off their shoes, quickly.

I want to see what socks everyone is wearing. 

Some of the group are wearing pretentious socks, full of bright and garish colours. 

Others are wearing boring socks. Lots of dull greys and navy blues.  

Now I’m taking the piss out of my friends and colleagues, for their choice of socks. They had no idea that this daily mundane decision would make them the butt of my jokes.

Before long, my three minutes is over and I take my mask off. 

I return to my seat and I resume my usual self-effacing demeanour. 


Three months later, I’m still making sense of what happened that day. 

It was a fascinating glimpse into my identity.

I found that who I am is far from fixed. 

I discovered new and unexplored parts of myself. 

John Smith was just one of them. 

Throughout the day I met versions of myself that were complicated, amusing, raging and highly vulnerable. 

It’s left me with a sense of excitement. 

The thought of showing these parts of myself to the world scares me too. 

I wonder what might happen if I do? 

If anything, it would be a bit like wearing funky socks…life would just be more fun.


Steve Chapman is running his next mask workshop on Friday 24 March 2017. If you’re interested you can sign up here.

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