We all wear masks from time to time: in our words, our habits, and our practices. We have an arsenal of crutches and shortcuts that slowly but surely hide who we are. They are things that prop us up and help us hide. We hide from our feelings and our desires. We hide from who we might become.
We drink coffee as a mask for how tired we are, or to replace what is really a lack of motivation for a certain project we're involved in.
It masks how tired you are of caring for a newborn infant, or how miserable your boss's cutting remarks make you.
The alcohol that you drink at night masks the fear and the stress feel from not having control during your day. Perhaps it helps to cover up the loneliness of your cubicle or help you get through another night.
We project false smiles of protection to hide our fears, to be desirable. We wear high heels and new clothes and carry certain bags and advertisements to show a sense of self, a projection, an idea. We use extroversion to be well liked. We chase busy to mask our fear of not leaving an impact.
We cover a lot of things up. Scars we carry, stories we hold, work we're afraid of doing.
Our selves, deep inside.
It's not always bad to have a mask...
It's not terrible to have masks, but they can't be our only way of dealing with the world. If we spend the entire time warding off the world and hiding from ourselves, we'll miss the best parts. By hiding from the world, we hide ourselves, and we lose a piece of our souls.
Many of us have lost touch with ourselves, our souls, with the tender, tired, scared part of itself.
Here's the catch...
Releasing a mask requires feeling. It requires having a real, honest, scary, less-than-desirable feeling. Letting go of your mask means you might need to say,
By golly, I'm tired.
And no, I don't want to do this.
Or, I'm scared. I'm scared of messing up. I'm scared of doing a bad job. I'm worried that I won't be liked. I'm worried that I might try and I won't be good at it.
Letting the barrier down requires Guts. Honesty. Softness.
Looking at the impulse before we rush to snatch a cover, and breathing in recognition:
Your feelings are clues.
These feelings inside? They aren't enemies. They are clues. Feelings are way points in an uncertain world, direction markers that guide us back into the brilliance of ourselves, if we'll allow it. The trouble is it can be uncomfortable and downright painful. Feelings you haven't had in years might surface to remind you of areas of internal work you still have to do.
And your masks were protection, once.
The masks aren't all bad. Sometimes pulling down the mask and showing your face requires gentleness and slowness. Your mask might have served you at some point. A therapist in my yoga training reminded me that these coping mechanisms shouldn't always be disarmed quickly. Children of abuse who learned how to harden and deaden their senses built masks in order to survive those times. These mechanisms and masks were useful--they helped you survive. They got you here. They protected. Unlocking them too quickly without new ways of being can also be damaging.
But at some point, perhaps you might notice you're still wearing one.
What masks are you wearing?
What masks do you carry?
What do you hide?
Can you lower it for a bit?
Looking for a place of love and kindness? Join our upcoming Grace & Gratitude micro-workshop, a two-week journey to cultivate grace and gratitude in your life. Two weeks of daily stories and exercises designed to bring light, love, and joy into your life--one photograph, project, and quote at a time. Sign up here (or give as a gift this holiday). We begin December 1.