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Hiding in the Open: Why Everyone Wears Masks

Have you ever been to a masquerade party? How about celebrating Mardi Gras? No? Then definitely Halloween, right? If you’ve ever attended or participated in these events, then you have most likely worn a mask at some point. Even the most subtle person, when masked will do something out of their comfort zone. Think of a mascot, for example. Why do we do this? We do this because we know that we are protected by the mask. It keeps us anonymous to others we’ve never met.

When we are brought into this world, we don’t have the luxury of a mask. We are completely innocent and vulnerable to the world around us. It’s the only time that we, as humans, are 100% pure. What does that mean?! You’ll get an idea as we go on.

When people have children we often hear things like “be careful what you say! That baby will remember that later!” This is true. From the moment a baby is born it’s like a sponge. As it grows and matures, it is absorbing everything around it and learning. We absorb everything, both positive and negative experiences. Ever hear of a baby’s first word being “F**K”? Exactly.

As a child we are constantly internalizing what people say and how they react, especially when it comes to what you do. Did you do something worthy, like get a good grade? Potty Trained? What’s the reaction? We get rewarded. We get showered with love. Now let’s look at the other side. Did we hit our sibling? How about break something and lie about it? What’s that reaction now? Pretty negative, wouldn’t you say? Discipline and a stern tone saying you’ve done wrong. We learn through these measures and figure out the right from wrong fairly quickly. How much more often do we hear a negative tone than we do a positive tone? More than you think. Can you blame children that come home and say “I’m a failure…” or “I’m dumb…”? It’s instilled in us from an early age, unfortunately. This isn’t always the case, but it shouldn’t surprise you that most kids say this or have this mentality.

Do we let this out all the time or show it, though? No, not always. We tend to keep them hidden because we don’t want to show how we truly feel on situations. We don’t want other people to see that side of you. So what do we do? We create an image of ourselves that is different than the person we truly are. We create a mask; a mask that shows the world a face that we want to show, while we hide our true self until we can’t anymore.

Everyone has done this at some point in their life. As we grow up, we go through things like puberty and self-discovery, because it is natural that we try on a few different masks–you know, to see who we really want to be; what makes us most comfortable.

This brings up the obvious question. How true are you to being yourself? Are we really ourselves ever? Or is it more of how closely we portray a version of us that is meant to be seen? Lots of questions, don’t you think?

The best way to show this is by setting an example. As uncomfortable as it is sometimes, we have to put ourselves out there. Which is what I’m going to do to help illustrate a point. In my profession, there is a high volume of people that I interact with on a daily basis. When I interact with them, I always make the best effort to be positive and energetic. It is all about making that impression on people and make it last, especially when you’re an event coordinator. Aside from my normal facial expression (which is pretty much grumpy/RBF; if you don’t know what that is, you can just google it), I come off as a pretty positive person, and that leads to positive feedback and kudos stating that I’m an upbeat go-getter that is always a pleasure to work with, and is calm under pressure (which you have to be in events). However, the reality is that even if I come off as that type of person, I personally go through a lot of ups and downs on an emotional level. Do I discuss it with people at work? Sometimes, but most of the time, no, it just isn’t something that you normally share with co-workers.

Another thing that I try to do is keep a pretty organized schedule. With work, sports, and other events, my schedule stays pretty busy. This is just means that I have to look at it and let people know when I can hang out and try to plan that ahead–so I know I at least have that time set aside. People might think I’m either too busy or they might think that I’m fairly organized to keep a schedule. Usually it’s the first one. However, if you really saw how I operate, I’m not that organized. Yes, I may have a busy schedule, but there are a lot of times where I find myself overwhelmed with what I need to get done and then forced to change plans. This might seem flaky, but things happen, unfortunately. Hell, there are a good number of times where I just procrastinate or ignore the fact that I have to do something because I’m tired and just want to be lazy. These are the things that I share with my closest friends; otherwise, I just let people believe that I was out taking care of business, even if I was napping for the past 2 hours.

It isn’t always best to share things like this, but you can clearly see that people only see me for what I choose to show them about me. It goes back to the environment I’m put in. Depending on where I’m at, it might be a different mask. This is why it is hard to really understand people now days. You can get past a couple masks and get to know a person, but how well do you actually know them? How much of their personality are they truly sharing with you? How many more masks are they actually wearing?

So the age old question is… why do we hide who we are?

Fear. An unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous and is likely to cause pain or come off as a threat. We are afraid of what other people might think of us if they knew our “true” personality. Hiding behind a mask makes the risk of exposing yourself less frightening. We try to believe we are whatever mask we are wearing, but it all comes back to self-doubt. With all the masks that we wear, I’m surprised our necks haven't snapped (metaphorically, of course). We add so many to make us seem more credible in life, in work, in school, in general. This is only putting more weight on your shoulders, both physically and mentally. We work so hard at keeping all of these things true that we burn ourselves out and often times we miss the beauty of the things that are sitting right in front of us.

So, how can we learn to face the fear and slowly start to show our “true” self?

Be aware. Take a good look at yourself and think about the masks that you wear. What does it look like to others? Think about what it is doing to you personally and how it affects others. Are these masks worth keeping on if it affects your work? Your friendships? Your relationships? Has it really helped you? Once you figure that out, you can start thinking about how you would actually react and not how your mask would react. Realizing that you can show your true self and acknowledging you are good enough without the mask. The mask did help you initially, but if you want to spread your wings, you have to discard the thing keeping you caged in. Once you break that cage it is all about staying committed to yourself. Take a real good look at you and show the REAL you. It is hard enough lying and then continuing a lie. Why put that much stress into pretending you are something else? Do whatever it takes to be true to yourself and show your true beauty to the world. Don’t lie to yourself or others anymore. Take risks. Get out of your comfort zone. Discover yourself.

Just know at the end of the day, you are always enough.

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