I have always been a huge fan of make believe. Every Halloween I do my very best to make our home a memorable one to visit… sometimes a little to memorable. It’s a bit of a guilty pleasure, but weather Darth Vader or a terrifying zombie, the kids love it… mostly. Welcome to Masks.
How odd that I’m writing this post in the midst of a global pandemic that has exposed the critical shortage of medical masks in the world. We are now in week five of self isolation and the health authorities have advised wearing masks when out and about for supplies. But even before Covid 19 was a thing, we have become masters of disguise. If you’ve ever forced a smile and told someone that you’re doing great but deep inside your falling apart, then you know what I’m talking about. Sometimes we’re fearful that the world will find us out. We feel that we must portray strength and confidence to a watching world at all times, it really can be exhausting.
The “Avoidance Mask” is often the mask of choice to avoid the pain of believing others will judge you or look down on you.
The “Happy Mask,” my personal favourite. Happy all the time, nothing ever gets me down. Those who know me best see the holes and tears that have developed from years of constant use.
The “Functional Mask” is the natural go to at work. This is the one to wear when you need to be in charge and nothing phases you, even though you have just received terrible news and you’re not sure you can keep it together.
The “People Pleaser Mask.” This is the one you put on to prove to others that you are willing to do whatever it takes to make them happy. You want them to accept you and not treat you poorly, they are less likely to emotionally attack you.
The “Anger Mask.” If you want to keep people away from you when you’re feeling vulnerable this can be a powerful one to wear. Emotionally sensitive people who don this mask are often left feeling lonely and struggle with self worth.
The problem is that, over time, the masks we wear can become difficult to take off. You may also be at risk of forgetting who you really are. God made you just the way He wanted you to be. You have nothing to be ashamed of, you are fearfully and wonderfully made. Psalm 139:14.
“Be yourself; everyone else is taken.” — Oscar Wilde
We choose to put the masks on and likewise, it is up to each one of us when to take them off. The first step is to make a firm commitment to yourself that you will make the effort. It may even be painful in the beginning so take it one step at a time. Accept your feelings and trust that they will pass. Stand up straight and let yourself be seen. Don’t be afraid of expressing your opinions and thoughts in a kind and gentle manner. Everyone is fighting some sort of battle within themselves and their fight isn’t likely to be the same as yours. It is so important to be kind to everyone and to treat people the way you would have them treat you. Matthew 7:12.
Being rejected or criticized is not a pleasant experience, but you’ll find out that you’re actually stronger than you think. Put your trust in God and be not afraid of what mere mortals may do to you. Psalm 56:3-4.
The following poem found it’s way into our hearts over twenty five years ago. The Author is unknown and it has been published in a number of books and online. It has been in the public domain since the late 1960’s. As you read it, you may see a bit of yourself in the reflection.
THE MASK I WEAR
Don’t be fooled by me. Don’t be fooled by the face I wear. For I wear a mask. I wear a thousand masks – masks that I’m afraid to take off and none of them are me.
Pretending is an art that’s second nature with me, but don’t be fooled, for God’s sake, don’t be fooled.
I give you the impression that I’m secure, that all is sunny and unruffled with me, within as well as without, that confidence is my name, and coolness my game, that the water’s calm and I’m in command, and that I need no one.
But don’t believe me. Please!
My surface may be smooth but my surface is my mask, my ever-varying and ever-concealing mask.
Beneath lies no smugness, no complacence. Beneath dwells the real me in confusion, in fear, in aloneness.
But I hide this. I don’t want anybody to know it. I panic at the thought of my weaknesses and fear exposing them. That’s why I frantically create my masks to hide behind.
They’re nonchalant, sophisticated facades to help me pretend, to shield me from the glance that knows.
But such a glance is precisely my salvation, my only salvation, and I know it.
That is, if it’s followed by acceptance, and if it’s followed by love. It’s the only thing that can liberate me from myself, from my own self-built prison walls.
I dislike hiding, honestly, I dislike the superficial game I’m playing, the superficial phony game.
I’d really like to be genuine and me.
But I need your help, your hand to hold. Even though my masks would tell you otherwise.
That glance from you is the only thing that assures me of what I can’t assure myself, that I’m really worth something.
But I don’t tell you this. I don’t dare. I’m afraid to.
I’m afraid you’ll think less of me, that you’ll laugh and your laugh would kill me. I’m afraid that deep-down I’m nothing, that I’m just no good and you will see this and reject me.
So I play my game, my desperate, pretending game. With a facade of assurance without, and a trembling child within. So begins the parade of masks.
The glittering but empty parade of masks, and my life becomes a front. I idly chatter to you in suave tones of surface talk.
I tell you everything that’s nothing and nothing of what’s everything, of what’s crying within me.
So when I’m going through my routine do not be fooled by what I’m saying. Please listen carefully and try to hear what I’m not saying. Hear what I’d like to say but what I can not say.
It will not be easy for you, long felt inadequacies make my defences strong. The nearer you approach me the blinder I may strike back.
Despite what books say of men, I am irrational; I fight against the very thing that I cry out for.
You wonder who I am, you shouldn’t, for I am every man and every woman who wears a mask.
Don’t be fooled by me.
At least not by the face I wear.
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Image – Pixabay