May 15, 2016

Identifying the Masks that Hurt & Embracing the Masks that Heal.

Photo: W H via Flickr

I’ve always loved masquerade parties.

The masks are usually artistic and beautiful, while lending an air of mystery; people feel much less inhibited when they can hide behind a mask. It doesn’t take a lot—a false mustache or beard, a cloth with holes for eyes, sunglasses—whatever insulates us from who we are.  It is as if we are transformed and can do whatever we want, because we aren’t responsible for what happens behind the mask.

I’ve found that these parties can get very entertaining.

But we don’t just wear physical masks. I believe that relationships are so hard these days because we wear psychological masks and project these masks on to each other. These masks are illusions of what we wish life was like, rather than what life actually is. We act in ways that are not in alignment with what we believe, because we want people to see us in flattering ways. This is why so many relationships ultimately fail.

There are various layers of masks that we have learned to wear to hide our true selves from public view.

I have heard people say over and over, “If you really knew me, you wouldn’t like me.” We consciously or subconsciously become someone other than who we really are because we are afraid people will not like us if they knew our true past or authentic beliefs. We put ourselves into prisons of being someone else and then wonder why we aren’t happy. But we can’t be happy trying to be someone we are not.

Depending on the individual, these masks can be on top or buried deep in our psyche, but they are always there:

  • Who you think you should be: Our parents (bless their hearts) try to guide us to be successful and happy. Sometimes they attempt to make us into someone we are not. My father wanted me to be a lawyer and so I became one to please him. I wore a lawyer mask for 27 years. The most common comment I heard was that I was too nice to be a lawyer. Finally, when I turned 50 years old I asked myself, “Whose life is this anyway?” and I took off my lawyer mask. It goes deeper than that, for under the belief that I was a lawyer (because I thought I was supposed to be a lawyer), I also thought I was supposed to be a “good son” to earn my father’s love. The mistaken belief was that I had to do what my parents wanted in order for them to love me. Sometimes I think this is one of the heaviest masks to wear—being who you think your parents want you to be.
  • Who you think others think you are: We think that we are supposed to be successful, brilliant, popular and happy. We spend a lot of time worrying about what other people think about us. I laugh sometimes when I am minding my own business and someone asks me, “What’s wrong?” This is a classic case of projecting our shit onto other people so that we can to come to their rescue. If we are totally honest, we would tell that person (as kindly as possible) to go fuck themselves. But we don’t do that, we want to tread lightly and not hurt anyone’s feelings. Have you ever asked “What do you think about my______?” That is putting on this mask. We need to stay focused on our own path and not think about what other people think about us. (I know, easier said than done…)
  • The past: This mask gets in the way of everything—especially if we blame ourselves or are ashamed of our past. In the concept of living in the present, we have no past and that is liberating. It is the illusion of the mind that we have a past; we only have the memory of the past, and I have found that many times our memory is not true. I always felt like I was obese in high school, but when I recently found my high school yearbook I discovered that I actually looked fit then. When we live behind the mask of our past, we deny ourselves the ability to transcend it. We also try to hide our past because we feel like people wouldn’t like us if they knew. The truth is that everyone feels trapped by their past. When we regret our past, it sucks our power and prevents us from being all that we are in the present moment.
  • Victim: This is the mask we wear when things aren’t going the way we want. There is great suffering attached to this mask, for it is exactly the opposite of who we are. It requires disempowerment, rejection of responsibility and great melodrama. I wonder how many hours, days, weeks or years I have spent listening to people tell their victim story. Multiply that by how much time I have spent telling my victim story. It is easy to claim that our circumstances are created by someone else, whether it is God or another human, but it is a soul sucking mask that doesn’t allow us to be who we are.
  • Fear: This mask is huge. It is the worry, anxiety and stress that we love to obsess over. It lies deep in our personality and most people don’t even know that you can take it off. It is part of our collective conscience to have fear of the future, primarily because we are afraid of anything we can’t control. I invested millions of dollars in businesses recommended by someone I loved and trusted. When he ruined the businesses and then rejected me, that mask of fear became very heavy. You can tell when this mask is on, because we can’t keep our chin up.
  • Denial: We never want to admit that we are afraid, uncertain, confused or lost. I quit practicing law after 27 years and when I took off my “lawyer mask”, I discovered that I had no idea of what I was going to do. I had a brave notion of being an energy healer, so I put on the mask of an “energy healer.” Underneath that mask was the mask of denial, because I did not want to admit to myself that I was scared shitless. I’ve had some experiences lately involving loss of my savings to a cult leader, loss of my father, loss of my self-esteem. Putting on that mask of denial (“Hey, I’m doing great!”) is a lot easier than being honest. If I was honest, I would say that I am processing my experiences daily and know that I will be at peace with them soon. After all, I charge people for helping navigate life’s minefields and speak to all kinds of groups on being happy and successful. I thought, “I can’t have down time, I can’t be human and I certainly can’t feel depressed.” What I realized though, was that accepting I was human was part of my journey, and embracing my “humanness” was part of the journey to self-realization. I found that it is okay to admit that you are in pain, but it is best not to be a victim.

There are some masks that make things easier and support us in being truly authentic and empowered. You may have heard the mantra “fake it until you make it.” What that means is that you have to put on these masks until they are absorbed into your psyche. These masks are truly beautiful and will allow us to live an extraordinary life. The good thing is that these masks are invisible and don’t hide anything.

  • Faith: This mask allows us to take off all the negative masks hiding us from each other. When we have faith, everything doesn’t have to be the way we want that very moment. We know that everything is transitory and fleeting. We believe that no matter what we are experiencing in the moment, it will not always be that way.
  • Smiles: A fake smile is better than no smile. We are taught to hide our feelings and smile no matter what. When we are in a bad place and stuck in a negative emotion, the physical action of smiling can help lighten the mood. Putting on a smile may be counter intuitive to what you are experiencing, but don’t let worry of what people will think stop you. Smile until you mean it.
  • Gratitude: This is the most beautiful mask of all. It erases the worry lines on our face, allows our bodies to relax and lets us connect to who we truly are. When we wear the mask of gratitude we can be exactly who we are.

Our personalities and beliefs about ourselves are masks. These masks were created and donned throughout our lives. It is only when we take off all our masks that we can see who we truly are and live a life that is fulfilling and rewarding.

We will always be putting on and taking off the next mask. Become aware of the ones that you use—the negative, the positive and the authentic. Eventually you will be able to take of your masks and be the real you.


Author: James Robinson

Editor: Nicole Cameron

Image: wolfgangfoto/Flickr

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