Updated: Nov 18, 2021
In lieu of Halloween, I thought it would be fitting to discuss masks. Halloween is a holiday in which we can be someone/something else for a day. We allow ourselves to dress up whether it is a favorite Disney Character, French Maid, a Firefighter, An Actor/Actress, Monster, Clown, or other. Some children/adults take the full month of October to determine what they will wear for this day or that Halloween party/event.
For children, it allows them to use their imagination to be what they want to be. For adults, it allows us to be creative and unique while having fun.
Are masks just worn for Halloween? Who has seen the show, "The Masked Dancer?" The premise of the show is to show talents of a celebrity while providing clues throughout the show of who they might be. All celebrities hide behind their masks/outfits but each week new clues are released to help identify who the real person is behind the mask.
For many of us, when we think of masks, we think of putting something over our face to disguise ourselves. I learned at a young age to hide my emotions. I realized when I was happy, others were happy. When I was upset at a situation, people would, at times, use that against me to start up an argument even if it didn't involve them. At times, I would also go as far to say, they became the victim in the matter in their minds which projected their frustration and fear onto me. For those people who had never seen that side of me and wanted me to be happy at all times, they would avoid speaking with me. I learned how to mirror others whether I felt the same way or not. My feelings/emotions did not matter, what mattered was being a support for those around me; until one day, I needed to be a support for myself.
I use the analogy of you will never see an unhappy sales/service employee. A sales person may go through a death in the family or divorce; but most people will never see that side of them because they have learned the art of hiding behind the smile aka MASK. At times, we might ask ourselves: Do people want to hear about our struggles? Do we want to project our problems onto others? What will others think about me? Will they judge me? Will they treat me differently? Will they give me advice? Everyone appears so "HAPPY" on social media sites, what's wrong with me? The answer is nothing is wrong with YOU. Everyone struggles with something in their life. It's learning to recognize the struggle, cope with it, trust in yourself, and allow yourself to be real and feel.
After 30+ years of masking myself, it was a difficult journey to trust who I was as a person. I got lost regularly as I was getting to know myself all over again except this time with history of events and experiences. But when one is so used to mirroring others, the mirror quickly turned to fear. I feared myself and the "Monster" I thought I had become. I was scared of my emotions and how others would handle me as I started to express myself. However, what I found through this journey is that once I was authentic with myself; others became authentic with me.
Uncovering the Mask:
Recognize the Mask: When you are at a social event, is it natural for you to be yourself or does it take work? Sit in the space even if momentarily and understand what you are feeling in that space. If it feels like work to express yourself authentically, you might be wearing your mask. Ask yourself if the mask is needed in that moment. If the answer is yes, "be the best actor/actress you can create in that moment to put on a dazzling show", and when you get home, remove the mask and put it aside.
Trusting Your Authentic Self: Express your beautiful self. Trust in your instincts. Not everyone may be granted permission to see your authentic self, but you will be able to feel and trust in your intuition of those that see "ALL" of "YOU" compared to those that see what you want them to see. The key here is that you are in Control allowing you to wear the mask when needed while allowing yourself to be authentic around those that mean the most to you.
Allow Yourself to Feel: Many of us put others before ourselves and that might be what is needed in the moment; however, it is good to allow yourself to feel and express emotions with either yourself or those who are in your trusted circle. Feeling can be scary at times if not a happy feeling. It takes inner vulnerability and courage to express oneself in a safe place. Find that safe place and allow your emotions to take over - You've got this.
Find a Workout that Fits You: We are all busy, but allowing yourself some "YOU" time in a workout of your choice can be therapeutic. It can release endorphins within your body to reduce stress from the day/week. It can be an escape for a rough day bringing out more positivity. Workouts can produce several health benefits that can assist in helping you FEEL better. At times, I use this time to put on a mask to be a Broadway dancer, marathon runner, etc. It can have fun and imagination is endless.
Finding a Healthy Space: Allowing yourself time for yourself either through meditation, hobbies of your choice, workout, yoga, massage, hot bath, etc that allows you to be in a healthy space to be yourself, think and feel.
In summary, how often a mask is used is dependent on your individual needs. Are masks good? Masks can definitely be good in situations of need; but recognizing when the mask is used and allowing yourself to remove the mask to become your authentic self once the event is over is most important.
Continue to strive to express your beautiful self each and every day. Show your individual and unique talents whil living the life that you want to live with full respect of yourself along the way.