What mask are you wearing today?
Over the last year and a half, we’ve sported a variety of masks — from surgical ones to beautiful handmade options. We’ve ordered masks to match our attire, our business function, and our favorite sports teams. We’ve even used our masks to be a walking billboard for our personal convictions and our life mottos! You may have even worn one of our triple-layered protection masks with the consistent reminder that in a time when our lives feel a bit out of control, our attitude is still within our grasp.
But today, we aren’t talking about the physical masks that have just become a norm for many of us to wear. Instead, let’s talk about the figurative ones that we are wearing without even being aware of them.
Let’s talk about the mask of a smile that we place on our faces even when we feel like we are falling apart inside.
Or the mask of an Instagram filter to make our lives seem more polished than they really are.
What about the mask of a “I’m fine” when someone asks how we are doing when, in reality, “fine” isn’t the best word to describe our feelings by a long shot?
There’s the mask of outward success while internally we feel like an imposter just waiting to be found.
I’m sure you are aware of the mask of strength that we portray at our most vulnerable moments of weakness.
Or the mask of progress when we feel stifled instead.
But this story can also be flipped. The masks we intentionally or unintentionally wear may not only be telling a different story altogether, they may also be holding others back from seeing the best parts of who we are.
You know that mask of silence may show up when inside we are trying to work through our thoughts, methodically planning our words, and those words have power and meaning.
What about the mask of fear when we are building up the courage to take the next step?
That mask of inaction may be anything but; instead we are on the verge of our greatest movement.
Others may see a mask of inability when we know all too well that we are full of endless abilities.
The mask of perceived beauty may hinder the world from seeing the most beautiful parts of we really lie deep within.
And that mask of perfection isn’t doing you any good when you realize that your broken pieces don’t make you broken. Instead, they give you power to help another.
With Halloween upon us, children everywhere will be putting on their costumes and selecting their appropriate masks. Parents, friends and loved ones will take pictures to celebrate the occasion, not realizing that they, too, put on their own masks daily.
How can you take off your figurative mask this Halloween-season? And how can you keep it off, allowing the real — and beautiful — you to spread your wings and be the you you were called to be? Here are three thoughts to ponder as you make the choice to leave behind the you the world thinks they know and embrace the you the world needs to meet.
Remember, you aren’t the only one wearing a mask daily.
We all have them. We all wear them. And in our extremely socially connected world today, now more than ever, masks are readily accessible and acceptable. Here’s the latest makeup that will make your eyelashes grow three times as long as they usually are. Have you tried this dieting tool? This new Instagram filter will hide those dark circles for you! Just ask for a mask, and you have 20 at your fingertips.
It’s harder to not wear a figurative mask than to give in and wear one. But when you do, you are hiding what makes you you and what connects you with another. Through authenticity and vulnerability, we not only are given the freedom to no longer have to be who the world wants us to be, but we encourage others to see us as a safe place to let their guards down, too, and embrace what lies behind the mask.
Stop the judgement, of yourself and of others.
Someone cuts you off on the interstate and you are 100 percent sure that they are there to ruin your day. You see a homeless person begging for food and you are quick to pass judgement on why they are in that predicament in the first place. Someone doesn’t meet your expectations and you just know that they are trying to ruin your goals.
We are all quick to judge and yet, we know that there is a deeper story behind our masks. We know that we have accidentally merged too quickly, causing someone to feel road rage against us. We know that we have had moments where just making ends meet was a challenge, not for lacking our hard work and for trying to do good. We know that we don’t intentionally mean to let someone down. And we know that deep within us, we are good and so are others. Remind yourself of who you are behind your mask before you judge another and make the conscious decision to give yourself, and them, a much-deserved break.
Lead with love, and let others love you back.
At your core is love. And at the core of others love lives, too. But it’s very difficult to love another before you learn to love yourself. How can you let down your mask if you don’t learn to love the person behind it first?
Let the dark circle and wrinkles be a reminder of the life you have lives and the moments you’ve have the pleasure of cherishing. Let the broken parts of your past be a reminder of where you’ve been and where you want to go moving forward. Let the worry and unknown of what is to come become exciting and exhilarating, a challenge to do better and be better. Let the love you carry within become the new mask you put on … the one that you wear proudly and the one that others become motivated by.
Just like the physical masks you choose from to wear, you also make the choice daily on the other mask that you put on. This mask is like a Halloween costume, hiding your true identity behind it. While it’s not something warm water can easily wash away, it is something that you can learn how to remove. And when you do, you will live more freely and love more deeply.
Encourage others to remove their mask, too.