The Words Behind the Mask

“I’m a stranger in my own life.” 

― Lang Leav, Sad Girls

There is always a part of somebody that is never shown to others – like the clothes in your drawer that are buried forever and never see the light of day. But not everyone – to my knowledge – hides their true selves in order to make room for someone they are not. That is my issue.

It is exceptionally hard to talk about myself because I truly don’t know who I am. Understandably so, this is quite obviously a typical state of mind for young people such as myself. However, I do not think my lack of self-awareness and self-identity is due to a chaotic adolescent stage. On the contrary, in fact, I believe that the reason why I have absolutely no clue as to who I am is that I have been playing different roles in front of different people for my entire life.

Bear this in mind: I am no actress. The roles I play I have created myself in order to appeal to people. As an extremely quiet middle child, I had to learn to adapt to different social situations depending on the individuals with whom I interacted with – as all people do. However, it has gotten to the point wherein I can no longer distinguish the person I am with others and the person I am inside. Only in solitude – when I am alone with only my thoughts for company – can I ever come close to who I think I am, and who I believe I should be. For this reason, I feel as if I am constantly shedding skin – layers of plastic that I form in order to hide who I truly am – the softer parts of me are too delicate not to be shielded from other’s potentially dangerous gaze. As the quote says above, I am sometimes “a stranger in my own life” because I have so many different ways of interacting with others, that I occasionally lose a sense of who I actually am.

I like to be a person of little words; I believe that the fewer words one speaks the more impact they can have. As such, I don’t usually open up to many people, let alone individuals I am not comfortable with. Therefore, I make up pieces of me that are more comfortable talking with others. However, as I have previously said, I have created too much of a facade over the years and have lost a portion of myself – especially when presenting myself to others.

The following poem is a response to the multiple facades that I have crafted over time and the effect it has had on my own self-identity.


how many times must

i look in the mirror to to search for

an answer to a question

i don’t know i am looking for?


how many times must

i peel off my skin to make room

for another mask that is not me?


they say a painter paints to

capture real life;

i paint to capture the lives

that are not mine


lives that are as fake to me

as a plastic knife –

built to perform a duty,

but never meant to last.


I find scar tissue above

the natural skin that grows back;

remnants of the plastic covering

that came before it


i no longer remember the

original flesh that hung from

my tired bones, the flesh now replaced by

synthetic sinews and skin cells – woven by

wounds too deep and dangerous to repair,


it is easier to take apart what is not

real, because once you take apart

my real flesh and bone

i cease to exist.


how long must i bury myself

to dig up a pseudo soul that is

now more familiar to me

than my own reflection?


I am tired of hiding

under skin coloured plastic membranes

and artificial smiles,

but destroying what is fraudulent


is better than destroying

what is real


my soul is more fragile than the


walls i put up to protect



what others don’t see is

what happens when plastic armor

tears, (even cellophane

so carefully wrapped tears into shreds sometimes.)


until when i must

i curl under wool blankets and

under darkened ceilings until

raw skin grows back


Like a cocoon, wrapped in the

fragile remains of the

parts i lost of myself –

the parts i no longer recognize.


now I am half skin and half plastic

I am half skin and half plastic

molded by the wounds of war and injury

from inside and outside my head,

from the swords I received when I tried to give



How many times must i

look in the mirror until

i recognize the face that looks back?





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5 thoughts on “The Words Behind the Mask

  1. Dearest Carmen,

    Thank you so much for sharing this part of yourself. I absolutely loved how you introduced your piece because it was incredibly poetic and insightful. The similes and metaphors in your poem made me “ooo” audibly because of how creative they were!

    “lives that are as fake to me
    as a plastic knife –
    built to perform a duty,
    but never meant to last.”

    This specific stanza is such a fresh breath of air and it holds so much depth. To compare the personalities you take on to a plastic knife is so clever because it not only depicts the superficial aspects of a personalities but also the reality of the temporariness of it.

    However I do wish that you went in further detail on what kind of personalities you sometimes take on, since I think it could also give you more material for your poem but also give the reader more “meat” to gnaw on. I hope that makes sense, haha. Also, (this could just be a personal preference) but I would make some amends to the format of your poem. For example, I think that the ~after every stanza kind of hindered the flow a little because as I was reading it I was stopping after every stanza. Although, I thoroughly enjoyed the simplicity of your words but how meaningful they are.

    Lots of love,


    1. Hi Liza,

      Thank you so much for such a wonderful comment! I always look forward to hearing your opinions, as they are always full of wisdom and support.

      The metaphors were a little bit sketchy for me, as I was unsure of whether they would be too far away from what I was trying to convey. However, thank you for reassuring that they did their job poetically!! As for adding more detail and “meat” – I wholeheartedly agree with you! I have to confess, I wrote this blog piece in a very rushed manner, and I wish I took the time to add more depth into the personalities especially. I will go over it soon and add as much detail as possible, as I also think that I was just scratching the surface of what I was trying to say.

      There’s an annoying fault of technology involved with the addition of the “~” after every stanza. I found in previous poetry posts that the stanzas would no longer be separated when I actually published a draft – so the “~” made sure that they were separated. In the near future I hope to figure out a better solution, as I also think it makes poems a little bit disjointed…. if you would know of any way to rectify it that would be great as well!!

      Thank you love for the amazing feedback,

      Carmen 🙂

  2. Carmen,
    Honestly, I’m not surprised to find that your writing is as well-worded as the way you speak in class. Just like how you always have something profound to say to the class, your writing is the same way. I can quite honestly connect to how you discuss the topic of multiple facades, a lot of people change the way they act depending on who they’re around and what sort of situation they find themselves in. You addressed how this can have an effect on someone’s sense of self in a very eloquent way that I very much enjoyed reading. I absolutely loved the way that you used figurative language in your poem, it helped to enhance the message you were conveying–the line, “How many times must I peel off my skin to make room for a mask that isn’t mine” especially stood out to me.
    However, one thing I noticed with your poem was a slight stylistic inconsistency. At certain points you wouldn’t capitalize the word “I” but other times I would find that it would be capitalized. I’m not sure if this is due to some autocorrect program on your computer or something else, but I would suggest in order to maintain a consistent style that you make sure everything is kept the same.
    Overall, I really enjoyed this work of yours and I look forward to reading more!
    – Genevieve

  3. Dear Carmen,

    Wow. I loved how your piece went in a full circle where both your first and last stanzas mentioned looking into a mirror. I also indulged myself into your clever and imaginative use of metaphors and similes (as Liza had also mentioned). I especially enjoyed the stanza,

    “how many times must

    i peel off my skin to make room

    for a mask that is not mine?”

    Because it reminds me so much of my own mask and how I continue to almost encourage it to take over who I am.

    I have never felt so close yet so distant from you at the same time. I relate to you in a way of not being able to distinguish my inner-self from my outer-self, but although we are similar in that manner, I do not know who you fully are as a person just as you do not know who I am in my entirety. The interchanging of roles when interacting with others is an interesting concept, or as some may even consider, an interesting part of human nature, but I also think it is a dangerous game to play when one gets too familiar or finds comfort within it.

    I think it would be neat to incorporate your explanation of the clothes buried in your drawer as being the side of yourself that nobody sees into your piece, but you don’t have to; that’s just a random suggestion I thought of. I honestly couldn’t find anything for you to improve on, however, I wish you wrote more! I wanted to keep on reading forever. 🙂

    If you ever feel uncertainty about yourself or feel lost, just know that you’re not alone and I’m that here for you if you want to talk about anything. Let’s get through this part of our life together and find our true selves!


  4. Dearest Carmen,

    I’ve known you for a long time, and yet I don’t think i can say that I know your writing style all that well, but after reading this poem I am partially in awe of your talent, but mostly I am feel as though something as great as this completely expected to come from you!

    Thank you for this piece. I say in all honesty that this post seriously resonated with me, mostly because it was more than just an explosion of metaphor leading to an unfinished thought. This piece was careful, meticulous, and impactful. I would especially like to commend you on opening up on such a personal level and sharing that with us here on the blog.

    I understand what it like to be a stressed out teenager, but I also do know certain things about myself (particularly relating to my facade as well), and I just know the difference between teenage angsts and an actual confusion of self. The line mentioned in your prose description, “I believe that the reason why I have absolutely no clue as to who I am is that I have been playing different roles in front of different people for my entire life,” deeply resonated with me because that is exactly how I feel as well. I loved how you used that concept and took it one step further by saying that you were not an actress, and that you were creating versions of yourself to appeal to others – to almost survive in way. I especially loved your choice to make the clarification that you are not doing this as an actress, as it is the purpose of acting is to entertainment, and that is not what you are trying to do. You are not trying to entertain, you are simply trying to just get by. Within the poem, i liked the choice of plastic as a symbol of the layers of yourself, as plastic can be interpreted as both a soft or sturdy medium, depending on its current form (like one and their facades).

    I would offer that perhaps there be a bit more within your poem that explains the certain “masks” you put on, and how they affect you. Like Liza said, it would have been nice to see just a little bit more “meat’ as you readers love your writing already so, the more the better! I do also think that after you present in class, there will plenty more ideas for you to incorporate into this piece so that you are no longer just “scratching the surface” of this subject. Also, perhaps I would consider deepening the symbolism of the raw skin as that is presumably representative of the soul. I would like to know as a reader: Why is your “raw skin” something that needs to be concealed so deeply? I think it would be very interesting to see the juxtaposition of the two explored further, as well maybe eve the parallels between the two that you maybe don’t want to accept. Just some ideas – take them as you will my love!

    Thank you for your beautiful words. May you continue to inspire us!

    With love,

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