The Case for Not Hiding Behind Masks
By normality, people hide behind costumes. While in essence, the art of hiding in plain sight was known to be reserved for masked singers, mascots, special agents and ninjas. However, its effectiveness eventually found its way to shy or insecure pulpits who elude judgement and often demand peace. Notably all of us.
We all have different things we hide from others, and from ourselves. We all wear costumes everyday, and we only reveal facets of ourselves to the ones closest to us but our true selves remain hidden. There are arguably many reasons for this behaviour, despite the lack of history behind its existence.
The primary reason we wear masks is fear. If we are insecure, we might hide behind the mask of name-dropping. If we are unsure of our power, we can hide behind the mask of being a bully. If we don’t think the world loves us, we can hide behind a mask of anger. We mask the debt we’ve incurred to pay for lifestyles we can’t afford; we pretend things are fine at work when our jobs are on the line; we pretend things are okay in our marriages when there is distance.
We tell ourselves that if our friends or co-workers, or simply the person we’re dating, see us for who we really are — if they knew our mistakes, our brokenness, our imperfections — they would not like us. That there would be no way they would accept us, or love us. So we put on costumes to hide our insecurities.
One of our greatest fears, however, is that if we show our true selves, the world will say, “Oh, it’s just you.” But being just you is actually the best and most perfect thing you could ever be. The Irish poet Oscar Wilde once said, “Be yourself; everyone else is taken.” He had a point.
Another reason for hiding behind masks, for some, is pride. We want everyone to see how great we are, and by wearing a mask we can look even better. Just look at how talented I am! How spiritual. How successful. How perfect I am. We believe that showcasing our lives as glamorous will evidently elevate us to being happy and loved.
This automatic acquisition that we’ve led on for years surely hurts us. It’s an addiction deriving from our lack and need to change and grow. The sad reality is that we don’t even think twice before committing to playing makeup with the stories of our lives, mostly because we expect people to be cold and judgy with our true selves.
There are, however, enough reasons for each of us to give up our costumes. The first is living to our potential. We have to bring all of who we are to what we do. There are numerous people who have our same skill sets, or maybe an even better one. But none of these people bring the same personality, creativity, and spirit to the job that you do. That’s something they can’t match. The irony is that we often mask that part of ourselves at work and lose our greatest potential.
The second reason is relief. It is exhausting to live an inauthentic life. You put on a mask or two or ten, then take a few off, then put a couple more on. It’s exhausting! Worst of all, you start forgetting who you really are. American comedienne Fanny Brice was right when he said, “Let the world know you as you are, not as you think you should be because sooner or later, if you are posing, you will forget the pose, and then where are you?”
The third reason is healing. When we wear masks, we carve a piece of ourselves out — withholding parts of ourselves as unworthy. But in relationships, we can’t be truly healed unless we offer up all the pieces. It’s like handing someone a broken vase and asking him or her to fix it but holding back two or three of the broken pieces. Masks make shallow what God has intended to be deep. Everything in our lives gets cheated when we choose to hide behind our masks.
What we don’t always understand is that painting our lives with the colours they were not originally coloured with not only hurts us but does so with our closest friends or relatives when they have to re-value and re-learn everything about us. Hiding behind masks may be of need when discovering uncharted territory before running through it bare naked, but any second longer than that, and no one will know who you are, especially you.
Poet E. E. Cummings once wrote, “The greatest battle we face as human beings is the battle to protect our true selves from the self the world wants us to become.” Don’t pull your mask partially off then let the world scare you into putting it back on. You weren’t born with one, why should you hide behind one?
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