The quality of our life is always determined by the quality of relationship we keep.
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“We all wear masks, and the time comes for all of us when we cannot remove them without ripping off some of our skin.” – Andre Berthiaume
We all wear masks, although the extent of which we’re aware of these masks varies. We all wear masks, yet none of us like plastic people. Masks are the facade we display when in the company of those whom we’re ‘unsure’ of.
Masks are made of plastic, and it’s hard to trust plastic people, yet most of us are hypocrites. We are blind to what we cannot see.
Ironically, not too many people like those who appear to be false, none of like being deceived, we seldom appreciate superficiality and most commonly, we only befriend those who we know we can trust. The mask we wear lies in the context of our personality, i.e. the person whom we pretend to be.
Masks are the edited and decorated versions of ourselves that we use to cover up the truth about who we are and how we’re feeling. Our masks shield those parts of us that we don’t like, we don’t accept, or that we believe other people don’t like or don’t accept.
We wear masks to feel more comfortable and secure within ourselves.
At the age of 16, I joined the British Army. I’d left the family home to venture out into the big bad world on my own.
Was I secure within myself? No. Was I confident in my ability to overcome all of the hurdles and challenges that being in the Army would bring? No. Did I feel brave? No. However, my 16-year-old mask and puffed-out pigeon chest told a very different story.
The masks that we display to the world tell a story about how it is that we want to be perceived and known as by others. Our masks are a lie.
At the extreme end of the mask wearing spectrum, control freaks and manipulators will purposefully construct a facade to divert people away from the truth about their more sinister intentions. Often recognised as a passive-aggressive personality type, these peoples charm is nothing more that a decoy to cover up the truth.
The degree to which cover ourselves in pretence is a bit of a warped continuum. For example, controlling manipulator starts out as your ally or the bully who starts out as your friend. The boss who interviews you for the job is seldom this same person once you’re his employee. The person who smiles to your face will stab you in the back as soon as you turn around.
Most people don’t realise that there are even any masks there. The reasons why people develop masks are complex and most of these reasons are grounded in what we grow to believe about ourselves as children.
We are all flawed, to different degrees, it’s just that some of us are better at hiding our flawedness than others. Some of us will even come to fool ourselves!
While we might fall victim to the pretence of a false self-image for a season, there are many costs to being inauthentically masked. Many people ‘put on a show’ to impress and gain approval or acceptance from other people.
While masks might be OK in the short-term, if people don’t know who we actually are in the long term, how could they ever decide if we’re someone they’d like to be in a meaningful relationship with or not?
When propping up our false persona’s, our range of behavioural options become slim. Having to ‘keep up appearances’ to those who we’ve deceived is a tiresome task – especially if who we’re pretending to be requires much effort or memory.
The good news is that we never needed to wear our masks in the first place – we can take off our false persona’s the precise moment that we’re ready to!
Before we go ripping off our falseness, however, it can often be helpful to understand how our masks got where they are and why we put them on, to begin with.
For most people, masks are the protective barriers (kind of like a defence mechanism) that we put in place to cover up our core insecurities: for example, “I’m not strong enough”, “I’m not smart enough”, “I’m not pretty enough”, “I’m not good enough” etc …
The extent of most people’s insecurity varies. Where some people are fully secure in who they are, others need constant words of validation and approval just to make it through the day. No-one is 100% fully confident, because, on the most honest of levels, we all know how completely imperfect we are.
Some people see themselves as being ‘less imperfect’ than others, and other people will see themselves as being ‘more imperfect’ than others. It goes without saying, that the beliefs people have about who they are will determine how they act, how they behave in a social context and also how they feel about themselves on a day-to-day basis.
Some people confuse the masks they wear with who they truly are – and this can cause a full spectrum of negatively destructive emotional concerns.
So …. the question you might be asking by now is, “Kain, is there a solution to this insane human dilemma of mask wearing?”
And the good news is ….. “Yes, there is.” The answer to our problem is commonly known as authenticity.
Authenticity is a term used in psychology and modern philosophy. Authenticity is the degree to which someone is willing to present their personality, values and genuine character to others – despite external relational pressures!
Sometimes people fear the idea that if they take off their mask, they’ll lose their personality and become ‘bland’ (or beige as Billy Connoly would put it). But authenticity is the complete opposite of blandness. Authenticity breeds life!
In the past, when I’ve coached people who have maintained a facade for some years, they describe authenticity as liberating personal freedom – life giving – simple – enjoyable and even deeply fulfilling.
When people drop the need to ‘be perfect’, they often discover how much more rewarding life can become, because in an ironic sort of way, taking off our masks will make us more of who we are, not less!
Authenticity isn’t entering a state of rebellion; it’s not a bad or abrasive place where the naughty boys and girls live, but it’s more of a place of freedom, a place where we can offload the burden, and just be who we truly are. Without facade and without needing to ‘get it right’ anymore.
The main benefit of unmasking ourselves is where other people get the opportunity to experience who it is that we genuinely are! And when this happens, you’ll discover a new depth of relationship that you may never have previously experienced.
So, to summarise, if we want to be authentic, we’ve got to ditch our masks. And if you don’t know what mask’s you’re wearing (if any), then take a look in the mirror, and compare the person looking back at you with the person who you pretend to be in public. This is your mask.
One of the main reasons why we wear masks, to begin with, is due to our need to connect and be accepted unconditionally by others.
So if you think about, ditching the masks can only be a good thing, as you commit to showing people more of who you are, for which you’ll earn more of their trust and respect in return.