Halloween came and went, yet often we continue to wear a mask – even when we’re not aware of it. The type of masks I’m taking about here flows from an attempt to be or at least appear a certain way. For example, we may try to appear competent, smart, or wealthy, to name a few.
We learn these masks often from childhood experiences at a time when we were learning how to navigate through the world. We learned that to be loved, accepted, belong, and to feel good about ourselves, we needed to appear a certain way. We received a lot of messages growing up, like, “don’t cry,” “shut up,” “be quiet,” or “being angry is not acceptable.” At the other end of the spectrum, our masks may flow from when we were praised. We learned to appear a certain way to get that praise again.
I wear a few masks from time to time. One mask I wear is the mask of invisibility. When I was growing up, it didn’t feel safe. At a subconscious level, I learned to hide out and not draw attention to myself. I’ve gotten pretty good at hiding and not being noticed even when I’m present.
The other mask I put on is the mask of smart. I am pretty darn smart, but it can also be a mask. When I’m trying to impress you with my intelligence, or when I’m hiding that I don’t know something, I’m showing you my mask. This is different than just resting confident in my intellect. I learned this mask when I was growing up. I was told it’s a good thing I’m smart because that means I belong to the family. So my subconscious took in this complement and all of the ramifications of it – which includes the thought that if I’m not smart then I won’t belong.
Our masks often produce the opposite effect from what we want. We appear a certain way to so we’ll be safe, accepted and belong, but in fact, these masks hinder true connection with people. With these masks, we don’t feel accepted, belonging, and a sense that people get us.
The trouble is that people are accepting a facade, not the real me. So, when I put on a front, I feel disconnected, separate, and, to be honest, pretty lonely. I don’t feel like people get me because instead, they’re getting my facade.
It’s pretty beneficial to take the masks off. I call this being authentic and vulnerable. When I started out practicing vulnerability, I was terrified. What would people think? But to my surprise, people could relate, and they appreciated my sharing. Over time, I’ve shared lots and lots of things about me that I used to keep hidden.
It’s such a relief to navigate the world not worrying if my mask might slip and that people might find out about me.
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