the many masks we wear
When we hear the word mask, it’s natural to think of the countless masks people wear on Halloween. Masks that conceal the human face and lead to intrigue and curiosity on the part of the observer.
“Who’s behind the mask?” is an inherent question we might ask when we first lay eyes on someone who’s concealed their face.
While this kind of mask typically comes and goes as October moves into November, there’s another one that isn’t contingent on a holiday.
I’m talking about the invisible masks you and I wear, not to conceal our face, but rather to conceal insecurities, doubts, fears, or a range of other emotions. Concealing is a way for us to avoid dealing.
Dealing with emotional pain that we’ve carried for months, or even years.
Dealing with fear that’s kept us firmly in our comfort zone, never wanting to take risks.
Dealing with anger that manifests in physical pain.
Dealing with a lack of integrity in terms of what we say vs. what we actually do.
Below are 5 different kinds of masks we wear. Although they differ in style, they all share a common trait. They’re each carefully crafted in an effort to conceal what we’re unwilling to deal with.
THE POSITIVE MASK
We pretend we have it all together and that everything is perfect. We’re often smiling and appear to be happy.
Underneath this mask is an unwillingness to look at our own imperfections. We use The Positive Mask to appear perfect to the outside world, while our inside world is falling apart.
Social media platforms, in many ways, provide us with the opportunity to wear this mask with ease.
THE STRONG, SUPERHERO MASK
When difficult life circumstances come our way, rather than seeking help, we become our own superhero and simply say, “I’m fine. I got this.”
On the outside, we seem to hold everything together, but on the inside we’re crying out for help. The strong walls we build as a façade are designed to protect the mental and emotional chaos taking place behind the walls.
THE SMART MASK
We all want to feel special, so we often seek ways to celebrate our specialness (I made that word up). One such way is to take pride in how smart we are. Even though we know we are smart, we need the validation of others to prove that we’re smart. When others question how smart we are, we get very defensive and try to insert our rightness on them.
Underneath The Smart Mask are often feelings of self-doubt and insecurity. A deep, under the surface knowing that we’re not perfect. This feeling makes us jumpy, like we’re always on the verge of being found out.
THE NICE MASK
Let’s face it. It’s easy to be a people pleaser. To want to be liked by everyone. The danger in this, however, is that we sacrifice our own happiness in order to make others happy. We fear that if we put our own needs first, we’ll alienate those around us and end up lonely.
Underneath The Nice Mask is a fear of conflict. We don’t want to step on anyone’s toes, so we become a doormat.
THE MEAN MASK
When we wear The Mean Mask, we treat others in a rude or critical manner (e.g. bullying).
Underneath this mask is often a low self-esteem. In many cases, we’ve been hurt by others, so it protects us from being hurt again. It’s usually a sign that we’re lonely, scared, or fearful.
While each of these masks can be effective in the short-term, the long-term costs are endless. Thankfully, there’s a way to avoid these costs. It requires a willingness to be vulnerable. A willingness to take off the mask and be real with what’s real. A willingness to begin dealing with the mental and emotional challenges we’ve been concealing.
If this speaks to you, I invite you to take the first step toward removing your masks. Find a loved one, counselor, or coach who can guide you through this process.
As someone who coaches young people for a living, my job isn’t to remove the masks for them, but rather to create an awareness around the masks they may be wearing. Only when you’re aware of something can you change something.
P.S. I taught this lesson to a group of 4th and 5th graders this week. I invite you to print this blog and use it as a discussion piece for your entire family. The principles are universal and therefore apply to all of us.