As Halloween approaches many people look forward to dressing up and becoming a character. Some go with a scary costumes, others are funny, sexy or newsworthy. These costume present an outward imagining of ourselves or a desire for who we would like to be and give us the freedom to be anyone else for one night of the year.
In this same way many people wear emotional masks everyday. They mask their true feelings, thoughts and personalities. This is done in our minds as a defesne thinking, “Nobody really wants to know what I think”, “My feelings aren’t important, I’m looking out for everyone else” or “If they saw the real me they wouldn’t like it.” In our minds this makes a lot of sense. It protects us from humiliation, failure or just going against the crowd. These masks hide who we really are and don’t allow us to fully express our thoughts and even though they are done under the guise of protection ultimately they are hurting us more than we can imagine.
So what are we afraid of? I know in my office I tend to play down any enthusiasm and keep a low profile for fear that people won’t accept me if I was my usually quirky self. There have been times where my jokes were seen as rude or over the top so I pulled them back and they retreated so far that I only show the real me to a few people. I also have a fear that people won’t accept what I am saying. In my circle of friends I am listened to as a smart funny guy but at work I am more of the intelligent guy that solves problems. My fear may be that if I am funny or if a joke goes bad people won’t see me as smart, they will see me as a jerk. So my fear ultimately is that if I am myself I will not be respected on a professional level. Is any of this true? I can’t be entirely sure but I do know that as the years have past I have become left out of most conversations, generally ignored when it comes to office chatter and I am sometimes past over as a point of contact for issues I am fully capable of doing. So by not being myself, I am ultimately not respecting myself and therefore people are following suit.
The masks that we wear to be “the good family member”, “the good employee” or “the great friend” may be a roles that are not true to our identity. It is not serving the purpose we had in mine when we put on the mask. The protection isn’t working and we are only hiding ourselves.
Maybe we are the funny person that is always telling jokes or the angry person telling others what to do. These are usually signs that something is wrong in our personal lives. Something is out of control and if we distract people with jokes or tell people what is wrong with them we can avoid dealing with these personal issues.
We need to take off the mask. When we hide who we are we begin to deny who we are and our mind becomes confused and will begin to reject our false persona. This denial can make us physically ill, gain weight, lose hair, upset our stomach, loss sleep. These are all symptoms of guilt that our body uses to say, “Hey, something is wrong here!” When we finally confront the truth and say, “I am out of control”, “I need help” or we just speak out when we know we are not being true, the problems begin to disappear.
And as we are our self and speak up decisions will change in our favor. We begin being heard, we begin getting what we want and even if we don’t get either of these things just by using our true voice we feel empowered and people will see us differently. And as people see us differently we become more comfortable being ourselves and we don’t need to use the mask anymore. And we realize that the protection was more of a trap and as we freely express our thoughts we are no longer in fear of what other think anyway. When we get to that level where we respect what we say and don’t worry about what others think then we are truly free and we begin playing the character we were born to play, our true self.