Many people often define themselves by using roles that they think serve them, e. g.:
- The professional employee / boss
- The super sportsman/-woman
- The successful hero
- The cool one
For example, many people each day take on the role of a professional employee. They underline this by wearing – just like a costume in theater – a suit with tie or a skirt with blazer. This outfit stands for professionalism, seriousness and elegance. They then act accordingly. But is this really authentic? Does this match their being?
The roles can also be of a completely different kind. Some people even benefit from taking on one of the following roles:
- The rebel
- The loser
- The betrayed / abandoned one
- The victim
To take on a role is neither good nor bad. The question however is whether you are authentic and can make authentic contact when you act out a role.
Take into consideration the following: If you identify with a role, then you limit yourself and become unalive. It is as if you would turn off all the other colorful facets of your being, of your inner core and only focus on one possibility. You are no longer really authentic.
Recently I was at an event with about 80 people, where different roles became visible. There was e. g. this man, approx. 55 years old, who tried to show his wealth and thus importance by wearing special label clothes. Then there was this young girl of 25 years age with bright pink make-up and the corresponding bright-pink short dress, who had taken on the role of the inapproachable beauty third example was a woman, approx. 50 years old, who had taken on the role of having everything under control and knowing every trick in the book.
What do you think was behind each role in the end? A man worrying about his company, a young insecure woman with little self-worth and a mature woman having massive health problems she cannot control at all.
Jiddu Krishnamurti, an Indian philosopher and author, writes in his book „Reflections on the self“:
„We all have a picture of what we think we are or what we think we should do, and this concept, this idea hinders us completely to see ourselves as we truly are.“
Yet, why do people do this? The motivation to take on a role can be of different nature. Here are some motivation examples:
- Getting recognition of others
- Distracting from oneself
- Not feeling your own feelings
- Not having to take responsibility for your own life
- Not having to take a look at your own topics and patterns
- Staying a victim of circumstances
- Feeling better
- Feeling superior and thus not attackable
- Matching the norm of society / “Fit in”
- Not standing out or in fact standing out (both is possible. The latter one is often connected to the first kind of motivation “recognition”)
- Meeting other people’s expectations
- Fear of being authentic and vulnerable
- Fear of really being seen (this can be very intense)
- Feeling safe
- Exercise power
Experiment: How often do you take on roles and why?
Reflect the last 3 days. Where have you been and with whom did you have contact? Which roles did you take on? Become aware of it. You might for example take on a different role depending on whether you talk to your boss or your friends.
Now write down, what motivation was behind each role. Be radically honest.
- Where do you try to represent or pretend something?
- Why do you do this?
- What would happen if you no longer took on certain roles?
- What would happen if you showed yourself authentically human and vulnerably?
- What is your biggest fear behind it?
We take on several roles each day without being aware of it. If you are not aware of this mechanism, then it can easily happen that you do not go your way authentically, but instead behave adaptive, take on a role that does not match your being and thus suffer the loss of liveliness and depth in your life and your relationships.
Instead you also have a being, an essence, inherent unique qualities that are authentic. Therefore I invite you to consider the following questions:
- How would these qualities like to express themselves?
- In which way does your being want to express itself?
- Does this match the roles you take on?
- Or do you keep playing roles that are not you?
- When does your being blossom?
- What inspires you?
- Where and when do you feel alive and authentic?
- How authentic are you really?
It is almost a paradox in the modern, fast-moving society: people are longing for more contact and authenticity, but use a lot of energy to meet one or several roles and wear the according masks. Do you want to get lost in roles that don’t fit you or would you rather like to live an authentic and vivid life with authentic and vulnerable relationships? Which role are you willing to let go of right now?