the integration of self

[an earlier version of this post was published as “full heads” on 11/15/12.]
it’s been said . . .

“the face is the index of the mind.”

the human face often indicates to others what we are experiencing internally.

she found herself presenting a different face in different settings.

politely asking directions of a stranger . . .
relaxed and laughing with a close friend . . .
feeling angered at a perceived slight . . .

distinct facial expressions in each instance.

different days? sure.
different emotions? absolutely.
different faces? well, yes.

but was she a different person in each situation as well?
compartmentalizing herself into neat little boxes each time?
/ / / / / / /
we all have our collection of masks that we carry around with us.
some we are unaware of, like when something unexpected catches us by surprise.
others we spend time perfecting, like when we put on a “brave face.”

is what’s beneath your visage a consolidated self that you recognize?
or are you a divided personality,
struggling to make sense of your surroundings and your place in them?


what if we were to integrate the various faces we display in public?
what if each of us were only one face instead?
what if people knew what to expect in their dealings with us each and every time?

hmmm . . . something to consider.

would that make us less interesting, less mysterious?
or would that make us more of an integrated whole?

could you still say “i’m uniquely me,”
and be free to experience and express all of your emotions and thoughts?
or would you become a same-mask-robot, conscious of each move you made
that wasn’t completely aligned with the way you perceive yourself?

to eloquently articulate who we are and what we are all about,
to have a solid hold on what distinguishes us from the rest –
that’s what we want, right?

you know what i think?

i think it’s a matter of semantics.
i don’t think the faces that others see are really that crucial.
i don’t think we need to be tethered to anyone’s idea of who we should or must be.

i think what’s important is knowing ourselves.
inside and out.
knowing what makes us humanly relevant.
searching for and pulling out that core.
that essence of our existence.

which faces do you unveil to the world?
are they real?
or are they artificial?

it’s okay to present more than one face.
as long as all of those faces are consistent with your one authentic self.

maybe you’re not quite there yet.
“i’m still figuring out the design of my life.”
“i’m still carving and molding.”
“i’m still a work in progress.”

that’s okay.
my son’s artwork (pictured above) was still a work in progress at that point.
but eventually the partial face became a full head.

we’re more than just faces.
we’re thinking, feeling beings.
with unbounded explorations to make, with daring lives to lead.
always searching for the courage, the creativity, the confidence
to be our true best selves.

we’re “full heads.”
heads full of thoughts and feelings and decisive actions.
adding to our internal frames, the armatures that support us, each and every day.

the integration of self.
/ / / / / / /
do you think it’s necessary to always present your genuine self to the world?
or is it enough to simply and privately embrace who you fully are?

as always, i would love to hear your thoughts.
please leave a comment below.
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23 Responses to the integration of self

  1. Interesting! I never thought about “integrating” my faces. Cool to think about how they all make the “full head”.

    I’m a fan of simple and private in some areas of my life, but I think I’m still genuine when I’m presenting myself to the world.

  2. Your writing is amazing. I love it. Yes, I think knowing ourselves inside and out is the way too. It kind of dissolves the masks, or at least makes them more conscious! this is a beautiful and profound post. Thank you April for sharing your internal knowing and showing it so others can see. Such healing in your words . . .

  3. Deb says:

    yes, I wrote about this recently too! We have learnt to put on so many different faces for so many different people and different contexts – is it any wonder so many people are confused about who they really are!!! great post!

    • April Lee says:

      yes, deb – it can be extremely confusing. expending the effort to truly know ourselves is definitely worthwhile. (and i think it’s such an important topic that i actually revisited it – the first version of this post was published in november 2012. glad you’re writing about it too. :))

  4. Bon says:

    Oh, I love this. As always, your writing is so great. I’ve been studying LABELS lately, and how we use them. I love this and I so agree with you about knowing ourselves and the authenticity being our best friend.

  5. Cheryl says:

    I definitely have different faces for different people and situations. It is all me but some of me isn’t open to the “general public”. I used to be afraid to show any of me on social media. I grew up where you were to keep “private things private” which I think made me hide the true me for a very long time.

  6. I am learning to embrace and integrate who I am. But it took me a long time to get to this place. As an introvert, I would say that I prefer simple and private. But there are times when I must present my genuine self since I do run a business. I want my clients to know who I am. I like being my true self whether it is private or public.

    Thanks April for such a lovely article and the chance to embrace your son’s lovely artwork.

  7. sara says:

    Neat perspective! Authenticity! Wouldn’t it be interesting if we lived in a world with one face?

  8. Dana says:

    Love this post April! As I have accepted and integrated my one true face, I find intriguing and interesting how our true selves are accepted by others.

  9. Cathy says:

    I think I need to read this one over and over again, April. I’ve been in conflict with some of my masks lately, and reading this, I think how those are there out of self-preservation, in places where I don’t feel safe presenting the authentic inner whole. Perhaps, then, those masks are necessary until (if) I’m comfortable enough to let the inner shine.

    One thing I do know: when I’m able to resolve the inner and the outer into “one head”, I feel so grounded and so free.

    • April Lee says:

      interesting perspective, cathy – and i think you’re right. sometimes self-preservation is a necessary stage. i like the image of you letting your inner shine come through.

  10. Fred Grooms says:

    I don’t think that we can separate our self from who we are. We can at times present different aspects of who we are and even hide others. I’m glad I’m multi-faceted it make us all interesting.

    • April Lee says:

      i agree, fred. one cannot separate himself from who he truly is. but i believe there are times a facade is outwardly presented that may not be an authentic representation of one’s true essence.

  11. It took me a while to truly embrace who I am – all my strengths, and all my weaknesses.

    I find that every year that goes by, I grow more confident in who I truly am, and become more centered. Which enables me to confidently and authentically share it with the world, and stay true to my course.

  12. Sam says:

    I love this line:
    it’s okay to present more than one face.
    as long as all of those faces are consistent with your one authentic self.

    Because there’s the thing… you have to be your authentic self, always, or the faces make you forget your core and lose yourself.

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