There was a beautiful exhibit at an art show I recently attended, called "Unmasking Brain Injury." The base of each mask was the same, but they were all designed, painted and crafted in very different ways – each symbolizing the fear, pain or journey the artist was going through as a result of their brain injury. It was exquisite in the way it captured this community, giving each person a voice and revealing what was underneath the face they were presenting to the world.
It got me thinking about the masks we wear in life, hiding true feelings or intentions, slipping in and out of being authentic - to ourselves and others.
A few years ago I took part in a retreat where the intention was to call in our soul mates. What can I say? I believe in soul mates! There was much introspection; meditating and connecting during the retreat to help us look at this process. At the beginning of the retreat, we drew inspiration word cards that were meant to help guide the journey. I pulled the word “deception.” I was thinking, this doesn’t bode well for someone looking for love! Deception? Really? But, I took this to heart and decided there was probably a reason I pulled that card. And, boy was there.
Upon going deep within during the meditation, it soon became very clear that the meaning for the card, for me, was self-deception, and that there were things I was hiding behind and needed to work on and to let go of before I would be ready to call in a lasting relationship of any kind. Very soon, my entire retreat became about self-love and examining where in my life I was wearing a mask of self-deception.
The truth is, we all wear masks. For me, my masks were hiding the true intentions and authenticity for who I really was, not how I was showing up in the world at the time. One such mask was hiding a fear of wanting to be liked BY EVERYONE. And, I’d become so attached to that desired result that it was stopping motion in many areas of my life.
This blog, for example. I’d become so attached to what was going to happen when I hit the publish button that I was obsessed over how many likes I got or how many people shared it. So much so, that I lost sight of why I started the blog in the first place. So much so, that I stepped away from the blog for a year after that retreat. I told myself that until I could be very centered on my true authentic purpose for pressing publish – that being to help one person, just one person at a time, to possibly think about something differently in their life, to be inspired to change one thought and thus raising the consciousness of the planet one thought, one person at a time – then I wouldn’t do it anymore.
It wasn’t until I took off the attachment-to-result and need-to-be-loved-by-everyone masks, explored what was underneath those shadow desires and healed the pain connected to them that I was able to put my writing and work back out into the world. It still slides into place from time to time, the mask, but now it’s transparent and I see it for what it is. But, my real intentions are clear.
Those are just a couple of my masks. I’m working on removing them on a daily basis.
Also, it’s easier now to recognize others who are wearing masks. It takes one to know one!
What kind of masks are you wearing? To my way of thinking, masks are usually how our fears show up in the world for us. In reality, our masks are the faces of our fears.
How do you know when you're wearing one? Potentially it's when you’re not in your best self and you know it, or not living your purposeful life and you know it.
What does one of your masks look like? What does the mask say to you? What is it hiding? Generally it’s a fear. Such as:
- Not being good enough, or just enough
- Not feeling important or visible
- Not being loved
- Or of being too much so you feel you have to downplay yourself to make others comfortable
I have variations of all of these masks hanging in my psyche closet. When I wear one of them, my behavior can show up as passive-aggressiveness, or isolation, or deflection or exaggerated unflappability. It’s not a pretty thing to admit, but it’s the truth.
What messages is the mask giving you?
Try taking off a mask, just for a day. See how it feels, the newness, the rawness, the unknowing of what’s going to happen. It may feel a bit scary. Your skin underneath will be fresh and new, after all this is new skin that hasn’t seen the sun. So certain elements may sting as you come into contact with them. When you see one of your fear-based behaviors show up in a situation, try to resist reaching for the mask again. Stay in that space, pause and feel your face without the mask.
That, my friends, is truth. Try speaking what’s in your heart without the mask. Communicating through the vulnerability or fear that’s underneath the mask helps to release it until this becomes your new normal.
Once you’ve removed the mask for good, hang it in your psyche closet. It’s a good reminder of how you used to be before you were fully living in your truth.
If you’re feeling nostalgic for one of your former masks, take one out and wear it for Halloween.
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Cindy Yantis is the Thought Changer Blog creator & curator. She is a freelance writer living in Los Angeles. For more info: CindyYantis.com