The Faces of Humanity:  How We’re All Made Up of Different Versions of the Same Person


Live Without Your Mask

There’s a (pretty) famous Japanese proverb that talks about how we all have 3 faces.  It goes like this:

“The first face, you show to the world. The second face, you show to your close friends, and your family. The third face, you never show anyone.”

I think it’s true, but – actually – we can take it a little deeper by exploring how there are more than three faces that the average person ‘has’ and also where they  come from and why.

Perhaps even more importantly than raising our AWARENESS of this ‘stuff’, we can also ask ourselves what we need to ACCEPT, in the face of these faces, as well as what ACTION we can take to improve our lives and grow more real accordingly.

(Awareness -> Acceptance -> Action – it works every time: see ‘Shadow Life: Freedom from BS in an Unreal World’ if you wanna apply this to your life as a whole).

If you read this article, it will help you to make sense of the MECHANICS of your relationships with yourself and the world and to start unblocking yourself and moving forward towards the only thing that really matters: an experience of WHOLENESS (or ‘connection’) to yourself, the world, and reality.

The ‘problem’ with all of these faces we each have is that we either think they don’t ‘exist’ or we think that only one of them ‘exists’ and try to ignore other parts of ourselves.

Actually, it’s completely normal and healthy to have multiple versions of ourselves in different contexts and situations because different contexts and situations allow us to express certain REAL qualities about ourselves that we might not otherwise be able to express.

Everything real about us is always within us – sometimes, it just needs a little bit of help to express itself.

The ‘FACES’ we show the world aren’t necessarily the same as masks (which mean that we’re ‘hiding’) – although, of course, they sometimes can be if we have an unreal relationship with our own emotional ‘stuff’ (shame, guilt, and trauma in the shadow or fear, pride, and desire of the ego, etc.).

All of us are FLUID because reality is in FLUX – sometimes, we just forget that and this can cause confusion if we think that we’re supposed to be ‘static’ (which is just UNREAL).

These are the most common faces of the ‘average’ human being (if such a thing exists). As usual, they fit into the only three levels that anything can fit into: The Self, the World, and Reality.

How many do you recognise in yourself?

Self-Facing Faces

At the level of our relationship with our ‘Self’ we have four faces (at least). Whatever it is that we really are is what EMERGES in the interplay between the four of them.


Face 1: Who You Wanna Be (To Yourself)

The first face we all have is the ‘Future Facing Face’ (or whatever you wanna call it). This is basically the face we carry of the person we want to BECOME.

This is comprised of all kinds of things that are related to the desired future we have for ourselves and we have to constantly SHOW ourselves this face in order to remind ourselves of where we want or even INTEND to be going.

It is comprised of things like:

-Our standards

-Our goals

-Our ambitions

-Our vision


Some people show themselves this face more than others and – indeed – you have to keep showing yourself this face in order to BECOME this face.

The reason that a lot of people become stuck or stagnate in life is because they haven’t cultivated this ‘face’ and given themselves a direction to move in.

That’s when other less ‘positive’ (or – at least – future facing faces) faces tend to get a hold of them and weigh their sense of identity down in an unreal direction.

The only ‘problem’ with this ‘Future Facing Face’ is that if we have an unhealthy relationship with our own emotional ‘stuff’ (shame, guilt, and trauma etc.) then the future becomes a projection of our EGO, rather than anything REAL (because we are creating goals and a vision of ourselves based on the fundamental assumptions of denying who we really are as a way of avoiding facing our shadow ‘stuff’ etc.)

Face 2: Who You Think You  Are Now (To Yourself)

The second ‘face’ that most of us have is the face of who we think we are NOW (i.e. in current reality). The keyword there is ‘think’ because it’s a product of our thoughts and mindset, not who we necessarily are in TRUTH.

Some of our thoughts might be ‘real’ or accurate (i.e. aligned with actual, valid truth) but often they aren’t because we get caught up in our INTERPRETATIONS of life, rather than life itself.

Anyway, this is the ‘Now Face’ and it’s a product of all of our self-assessments and conclusions about ourselves based on where we’ve been, where we think we’re going (based on the Future Facing Face), and the ways in which we JUDGE ourselves in the present to varying degrees of ‘good’ or ‘bad’ (which is what all judgements deal with).

It’s ultimately, a product of the STORY we tell ourselves about who we happen to be right now.

The interesting thing (imo) – and the thing that makes the biggest difference to the quality of our lives – is not necessarily the STORY itself, but the WAY IN WHICH WE TELL THIS STORY.

If we tell the story in a way that is fixed as a FINAL DRAFT then we will stop ourselves moving and take ourselves out of reality (and be less likely to show ourselves a real Future Facing Face because we have conditioned ourselves to be PASSIVE).

If we tell ourselves the story in way where it is constantly being written and updated then we will be more likely to keep learning and move into real life (whatever that is in the context of our own lives).

Face 3: Who You Fear You Might Be

The third face is the ‘Fear Face’ – this is the face of who you FEAR you might be. This is usually shown to us when our emotional ‘stuff’ gets a hold of us and distorts our view of ourselves by our SHAME, GUILT, or TRAUMA (or a combination of the three).

When shame distorts our vision of yourself, it will affect your view of both your ‘Future Facing Face’ and your ‘Now Face’ because it will take unresolved emotional ‘stuff’ from the PAST and cause you to stop trusting and believing in yourself (so these three faces are ultimately about the Future, the Present, and the Past and your real or unreal relationship with each).

This SHAME will tell you that you aren’t the type of person to be able to get the future that you want.

It will tell you that who you are right NOW is no good.

This is just your FEAR talking and the unresolved emotions you carry within yourself that make you feel like you’re not good enough. The FEAR FACE is the one that you show yourself when you start to believe that this shame is the truth about you (because you haven’t started to DISSOLVE the shame by facing REALITY and have instead become driven by it).

It’s the same with GUILT and TRAUMA:

When guilt distorts your vision, you convince yourself that you’re a ‘bad’ person in the present and that you ‘don’t deserve’ the future that you want. This is just your emotional ‘stuff’ showing you your FEAR FACE.

Trauma – which makes us feel powerless – will  distort your ability to tap into your own power and will make you feel that you can’t CREATE the real future that your (real) ‘Future Facing Face’ wants to you to move towards (because it will distort your view and tell you that you’re passive).

There is more variation and complexity here but  – ultimately – you have a face you show yourself in your weaker moments that is purely comprised of your FEARS about yourself.

This is ‘normal’ and part of the human experience but the more overpowering your emotions are the more you will show yourself this face and start to believe that it’s who ‘you’ really are.

If you listen enough and believe it, that’s when you stop moving and stop growing REAL and hide behind ego instead (which is just a mental box you put yourself in to keep all your emotions and ‘shadow’ stuff at bay).

Face 4:  Your Shadow Face / The Unknown

Beneath the surface of all of the faces we do show ourselves from time to time, there is another UNKNOWN FACE that bubbles away beneath the conscious experience of ourselves and that drives the course of our lives without us even knowing (not consciously at least).

This is our SHADOW FACE and it’s comprised of all the different things about ourselves (qualities, goals, ideas, ‘parts’, etc.) that we have at some stage in our lives cast aside and disowned as being ‘unacceptable’.

This usually happens because the World CONDITIONED us to believe that certain things shouldn’t exist and then we hypnotised ourselves to live as though they don’t – this being the case, over the course of our lives we try and act like these things don’t exist or suppress them (with socially unacceptable emotions like ‘rage’, for example).

The TRUTH of the matter, however, is that these ‘hidden’ parts of ourselves are just as REAL as the parts that we do face and – as what’s real is always real – these parts never go anywhere.

In fact, they’re not even ‘parts’, they’re just certain EXPRESSIONS of what we are as a WHOLE. We just conditioned ourselves not to EXPRESS them.

Even though we try and hide this ‘Unknown Face’ from ourselves, the ‘parts’ that comprise it never go anywhere and continue to call for our attention (so we can integrate them) from beneath the surface of ourselves.

One of the most common ways that these parts ‘call out’ to us is through PROJECTION.

All that means – at the simplest level – is that we try and hide these parts behind the CONSCIOUS FACES we show ourselves but UNCONSCIOUSLY we project them onto the world outside of us.

A classic way of determining this kind of thing is to look at what annoys us in other people.  For example, if somebody’s RAGE annoys you – it’s probably because you haven’t ACCEPTED your own rage that’s bubbling beneath the surface of your conscious faces.

What this means in the context of this article is that we all have a FOURTH FACE: the Shadow Face that is shown to us as a reflection of ourselves in the world or as a projection reflected back from others (if we can decode the matrix).

Facing this ‘Unknown’ face is the best chance we have at growing more WHOLE (instead of just being fragmented by only facing the fragmented, surface level faces created as a response to keep the shadow ‘stuff’ at bay).

World-Facing Faces

There are two main types of World-Facing Faces that we show the world (and which are affected by our relationships with ourselves and our ‘Self-Facing Faces’):

Face 1: The Character You  Play In MOST Social Situations To Survive Them (Who You  Show To Strangers/People You Just Met or Want to Keep at A Distance).

The first face that we have for the WORLD is the default face that we want to show other people. This is influenced by all of the SELF-FACING FACES and how we ‘feel’ about ourselves but it’s also inspired by two other things:

  1. How we need others to see us (because of our emotional ‘stuff’).
  2. How we have LEARNED to survive social situations in the past

This ‘DEFAULT’ FACE is just the one that we use to make sure we can get through life on a daily basis and to interact with people we might come across like strangers we have to talk to (people that work in coffee shops, taxi drivers, people we meet for the first time at networking events, etc. etc.).

We will try and COME ACROSS in a certain light in order to reinforce the stories we tell ourselves because of our Self-Facing Faces and the ‘Shadow Stuff’ we want to keep at bay but we will also put on a strategic way of being based on how we survived social situations in the past.

This might involve using strategies like ‘being polite’ or maybe even something like trying to be ‘humorous’ and making jokes. Whatever strategy you use, it’s ultimately about gaining CONTROL of the interaction so that you show the face you want to show.

Everybody does the same thing and it’s something we have to do to keep ‘society’ going.  Depending on how REAL you are with yourself will affect how much of your real self can shine through(the most whole version of yourself possible in a given moment).

Even if you’re relatively REAL, there will still be a slight warming up period around new people whilst you figure them out – whatever strategy you use to ‘warm up’ is just your DEFAULT FACE for the world. It’s not ‘You’ – it’s something that you CHOSE based on your conditioning and expectations of yourself and others.

Face 2: The Face You Show The World In Different Partnerships or Groups (E.G. Might Be Different Among Friends That Parents).

This is where things get (more) complicated.  There are multiple versions of this face which is the face that you show different PARTNERSHIPS or GROUPS that you’re involved in based on your own relationship with yourself (and your ‘Self-Facing Faces’) and the EXPECTATIONS that whatever group you’re in has for you (and what you think about these expectations and whether or not you care about modifying the way you come across because of them).

Here are some simple examples of your CONTEXTUAL FACES:

You might have a face that you show your parents that you wouldn’t show your friends.

You might have a face that you show your friends that you wouldn’t show your parents.

You might have a face that you show your boss that you wouldn’t show your wife/husband.

You might have a face that you show your wife/husband that you wouldn’t show your friends.

You might have a face that you show yourself (one of your Self-Facing Faces) that you wouldn’t show any of these people (not a group, just here to demonstrate the point).

The short-version of all this is that each one of these partnerships or groups forms a new SYSTEM and you need different faces to SURVIVE them because of the roles you’re asked to play and the EXPECTATIONS that come with that role.

You can still be REAL in each of these context but how much realness is able to creep out depends on the DEPTH OF INTIMACY in each of these relationships and whether or not you’re allowing expectations to be more main motivation or realness.

The number of these CONTEXTUAL FACES changes and varies over the course of our lifetimes depending on how many different groups we’re engaged in or how big our network is (or isn’t) etc.

Reality-Facing Faces

Even though in reality we are ultimately WHOLE (i.e. not divided into all of the different categories and labels that we use to make sense of the world – which we’re doing in this article too because it’s just how we make ‘sense’ of the world), we have at least two faces that show us a reflection of REALITY.

Face 1: The OBSERVER making sense of all this .

The first of our Reality-Facing Faces is the OBSERVING FACE.  This is just the version of ourselves that occasionally (for most) is able to STEP BACK from the complexity and confusion of the interplay between all of the Self-Facing and World-Facing faces and to watch things unfold.

This Observing Face is important because it is a version of ourselves  that we are able to show ourselves BEYOND JUDGEMENT.

All of the other faces mentioned so far – apart from the SHADOW FACE (which contains who we would be if we stopped judging ourselves)- are ultimately unreal because they involve JUDGEMENT at some level (which is always unreal because all you can do with reality is ACCEPT it – the opposite of judgement).

The OBSERVING FACE is an AWARENESS of what we have observed or are observing and allows us to hold space so that we can start to respond instead of just reacting to the promptings and conditionings of the other faces.

This comes from the place of WHOLENESS that is within us at all times (in fact, is what we are) and allows us to come from a place that’s REAL instead of being a fragmented consequence of our outdated biological wiring, emotional ‘stuff’, or social conditioning and programming (like the other faces mentioned at the levels of self-and world).

The FACT that you can OBSERVE all of the other faces is proof that they are not ‘You’. They are just survival tools that form the foundation of the EGO (which is fragmented, not the bigger which is an EXPERIENCE of being alive which always comes back to AWARENESS).

Face 2: The REAL self (who knows what to do with all this Awareness and to ACCEPT it and to take Action)

The final Reality-Facing Face that’s relevant here is the one (which is really part of the same process) that you show yourself when you ACCEPT what the OBSERVING FACE has become AWARE of and decide to take ACTION based on this (Awareness -> Acceptance -> Action, it works every time).

When you take this kind of REAL ACTION it allows you to stop holding yourself back based on the limitations of your Self-Facing and World-Facing Faces and to put yourself back on track towards a natural DRIVE towards wholeness that we all have.

By taking action you always learn more about reality and you always  become more whole because you  will eventually end up having to bring your SHADOW ‘stuff’ to the surface (as you find the EDGE – i.e. where all your ideas about yourself meet reality and you can grow more REAL).

In short, the realest faces you can show yourself are the ones that EMERGE when you are able to step back from the ‘other’ faces (Self-Facing and World-Facing) and to put yourself on the path of growing real.

When you do this, you realise that you have NO faces – you’re just FACING THE TRUTH and constantly moving forward and experiencing life as a WHOLE.



If this story inspired or helped you then please share it with others! 🙂

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