The Mask Beneath Your Face

Venetian Masks

I refuse to believe that real people write books.


Oh, I fully understand and accept that books get written. I was just at a Joseph Beth today, which was once a Borders…that I once worked at. Elsewhere, I have one colleague who just toured her book around the nation, and another who is working on a book proposal. So believe me when I say I know that books are written—in fact, by people.

The problem is, I lack experience. To my knowledge, no book has ever been published with the “making of” or “behind the scenes” featurettes that come with, say, a DVD…imagine if you could read the “deleted chapters” from Harry Potter! When we buy a book, we don’t see the speeches that gave rise to the transcripts that became the drafts that went from publisher to publisher until someone said, “I like it,” and then sent it back with more red ink than our worst high school English paper—the one we stayed up all night for and yet still came in more than a page short, so we added space between the lines pixel by pixel to see just how much could be eked out…

Oh, don’t lie. We all did it.


A common phrase we hear in today’s society of encouragement is, “You are more powerful than you imagine.”

When I think about how I am more powerful than I imagine, I kind of want to sit back and relax, honestly. Sometimes I like to imagine that I’m pretty smart—or at least perceptive. I’m already awesome, right? However, believing we’re more powerful than we imagine removes the pressure to do anything. This is directly antagonistic to the mindset of the yogi.

Now, this isn’t the fault of the statement itself; the statement is true, just not in the way it’s always used.

When I started doing asana, I had zero perception of how “good” I would be at it—how flexible, how strong, so on. Particularly when it comes to physical prowess, I personally tend to lowball my own estimations and overdo my actual practice (when I began cycling, I started out riding 5 miles a day; usual recommendation for starting cyclists is half that, I would later learn). This often leads to burnout and frustration, not knowing that I was sometimes doing more than was expected for someone of my level.

Both of these are examples of being, literally, more powerful than one’s own imagination.

A better way of phrasing the expression in question might be, “You have the capability to be more powerful than you imagine.” By switching the inherent awesomeness to the potential to be awesome, the individual in question has less a chance to buy into any self-generated illusions. Furthermore, by telling someone they can be powerful, at least so far as the English language goes, one also indirectly tells them that they are not powerful (yet)!


Remember the Dove Real Beauty Project, where the forensic artist drew those women based on their self-descriptions..?

We all like to think that we know who we are, or at least that we have a good idea. Therein is the key of the phrase, “You are more powerful than you imagine.” What if we instead asked, “I wonder if I can…” or “I wonder how far I can…” or “I wonder what will happen if I…” and admitted that we don’t actually know? Perhaps we could more readily open ourselves up to previously unforeseen outcomes.

What happens if I try standing on my head?

What happens if I see how much I can write?

What happens if I accept that what I think I look like, or what I am, or what I could be, is totally wrong? What if I came to believe that this thing I think is my face is actually a conjuration of my mind? It’s an illusion.

What if I told you that beneath what you thought was your face is a mask; still not the real you, but rather the you-you-could-be? Suddenly, “You can be more powerful than you imagine” takes on a new air, a passionate air, an explosive air. The you-you-could-be suddenly feels like it’s being hidden by the you-you-think-you-are, the you you think is real.

So, yes, I refuse to believe real people write books. Those people, they wear masks. Now imagine—if you will—what you could do if you put on yours.

“…while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

~ Steve Jobs


Photo: gnuckx/Flickr