Reflections for the inner life.
by Louise Osborn, LMHC
I have talked before about the dangers of leaving a mask on too long. Today I would like to talk about the many different masks survivors wear, the reasons we wear them and the danger of becoming too attached to the mask.
There are many different reasons events that could make a person adopt a mask, but the underlying reason is the same. “Fear”! Fear of appearing to be a failure, fear of someone finding out your past, fear of looking weak or emotional. But fear is a dangerous bedfellow and can easily make you lose yourself altogether.
Those very things in our past, the hurts and insecurities are begging for release and releasing them leads to freedom. The first step to removing the mask is realizing what mask you wear most. The people pleaser? I have to do everything for everyone or they won’t like me. I will put him first and he will love me. Or maybe its the perfectionist? I must stay in control and do everything right. I crave help but I am afraid to ask or accept it. The I must be attractive all the time mask? If I must be beautiful to be worthy of love. There are of course others. The approval mask or the performer, and many wear different masks at different times or even multiple masks. Doesn’t it get tiring?
To begin to take off the masks though, we must face our past hurts, traumas and experiences and discover how they came to be. Maybe it goes back to winning a parents approval as a child, a negative relationship or a traumatic experience. I will acknowledge that for me this exercise helped me to realize how many masks I wear and how they have led to more negative experiences that in turn created new masks. It has been eye opening to realize how many I still wear and how they have piled up.
I have also realized how much of my true self and beauty is hidden and how revealing it can lead to true contentment. To not be afraid to speak up about something you feel is unfair, to allow someone to see your weaknesses, to accept help from someone or actually trust another person. In order to accomplish any of these we must learn to remove the mask and trust that everything will be ok. That the people that truly love us can handle it and those that don’t we don’t need in our lives anyway. That God does have a plan for us but by wearing the mask we are hiding our potential to live out his plan.
So how do we learn to take off the mask? Although everyone is different, my suggestion is that you first identify your masks and the events that caused it. Then, as hard as it sounds, you face your negative experiences, fears and traumas and you forgive and continually forgive anyone that harmed you. Lastly you put your faith fully in Gods plan for you. Lean on him and his words for comfort and strength. And if you still struggle, reach out to someone. A therapist, friend or family member and let them know what you are struggling with, what masks you wear and why. Voicing your story is difficult but cleansing at the same time, and it may help someone else you know take off their mask.