We all wear masks in certain settings of our lives. Perhaps at work you wear a more professional mask. With your friends you might don your more lively social mask. And with a spouse or a lover, in a private moment you may wear a secret, sexy mask. All parts of the whole of you. It wouldn’t be appropriate to wear those masks in the wrong settings, so we tend to follow the rules that society sets about the whys and wherefores of the masks we wear.
But sometimes the masks we wear become too fixed. A mask we wear has somehow become a part of our persona. Who we are.
We somehow feel pressured in certain settings to wear a mask that may no longer be comfortable. Akin to a role we play in certain relationships in our lives. Maybe you’re the caregiver. Or the strong one. Or the emotional one.
Maybe you’ve turned the mask into your identity. Wife. Mother. Boyfriend. Sister. Husband. Friend.
And sometimes the mask that has become your identity can cover up parts of you that you used to know and love. Parts that are now hidden behind the mask.
Sometimes others push us to wear the mask and we acquiesce. Just to keep the peace. Or to make someone else happy.
Other times wear willingly submit to wearing the mask because it’s just easier. The path of least resistance.
Or maybe we just didn’t realize that we had a choice and that we were good enough to go without the mask. That we could be naked and live in our own truth.
It was only recently that I recognized one mask that I’ve been wearing for a very long time. Years. One that I’d forgotten I’d even put on.
I used to be a much more physically affectionate person. Touchy-feely. The brush of a hand on the arm of someone I was talking to. Leaning in to touch someone when we were laughing and having a good time. A spontaneous hug just to let someone know I adored them and was enjoying my time with them.
But it bothered some people. And rather than questioning the warmth and openness of the people who were uncomfortable, I questioned myself. I changed myself. I molded myself to fit their needs and I created a strong and powerful mask of an invulnerable person who no longer expressed herself in the manner that was inherent to her nature. I became someone else. Someone who I wasn’t.
I donned a mask and wore it for a very, very long time. Years, in fact. Until just recently, when something made me realize that a part of me was missing. In fact, it was not something, but someone, mirroring this affectionate behavior to me, who awakened this part of me. Seeing and feeling someone touch me with that warmth and caring of a friend made me remember this part of myself. It reminded me that this more authentic version of myself needed to emerge and discard that mask, even if it made others uncomfortable. Even if the people whom I’ve chosen to be around weren’t used to this version of me. I needed to honor that part of me that spontaneously wanted to reach out and touch others and stop holding myself back from being kind and affectionate.
I decided to discard this old and useless mask. And it feels good and new and warm and authentic.
So what about you? What mask have you been wearing just because it’s what you’ve been doing, maybe even for years? Dare to take it off.
It may make people in your life a bit uncomfortable. Maybe even a lot uncomfortable. But it’s your life, damn it, and there’s no sense in hiding behind a mask and being half of who you were meant to be.
So go ahead. Take off your mask.