In his In Defense of Masks, Kenneth Gergen considers that it is challenging, almost impossible, and even “poor psychology” to find and stick to a single identity in all social interactions. Therefore, he argues with Polonius’ advice to his son Laertes persuading the young man that it is vital to be always and with everybody true to one’s self. On the one hand, Gergen asserts that a healthy personality should develop “a firm and coherent sense of identity” to comply with moral and religious values. Nevertheless, one should also take into account the society, which imposes rather different masks on the individual. Hence, there is obviously a controversy in the need to develop a coherent sense of identity, which can force a person into emotional distress. Gergen sticks to the opinion that people do not normally develop a coherent sense of identity; moreover, if they do, it harms them. Thus, the theorist explored empirically the way individuals shifted masks of identity as well as the factors influencing their choice. Through various methods of research, including interviews and self-ratings, the researcher aimed at distinguishing feelings underlying different masks, as well as the relationship between masks and motives based on approval-seeking. Gergen concludes from the findings of his experiments that human selves are remarkably flexible, meaning that they are capable of shaping and reshaping identities depending on social circumstances. However, it does not mean that individuals consider all their different masks fake; they accept them as real once put on. Further, the way others perceive people influences their perception of self. Among all, it implies that in every relationsh...
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...es, neither to be rigid and seem unaware of other’s feelings toward oneself nor to be obsessed to get the proportions of Barbie.
Kenneth Gergen’s idea about the usefulness of multiple masks and public identities is undoubtedly constructive for an individual’s psychosocial adaptation and well-being. However, it is hard to overstate the importance of a harmonious view of oneself and self-acceptance, which can be firm in the face of negative social impacts. The current paper regarded several examples from own experience and from two articles by Amy Alkon and Dave Barry to illustrate the importance of balance between the two aforementioned statements. As a result, one can draw a reasonable conclusion about the necessity to have a coherent but not rigid sense of identity, which would not exclude the constructive use of masks in establishing healthy social interactions.
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