neonbrand-298927 man holding helmet

“Put your game face on”.

 

Often we don’t share our vulnerabilities or our inner selves with everyone. Some of us have different personas, different masks, for different situations and groups of people. Masks are pretty common, even when we think we’re an open person.

 

There are many reasons we wear masks. Probably the most common is for protection.

 

We wear a mask that hides who we really are to protect our authentic self from the hurt of rejection. It is vulnerability that we hide by avoiding the acknowledgement of what worries or frightens us. So, for instance, we maintain a facade of brightly smiling ‘I’m fine thanks’ when inside our loneliness or insecurities is a burden.

 

We wear a mask to try to keep up with the expectations of other people – filters on selfies, make up on before leaving the house, never asking for help or directions.

 

Some people wear different faces in different surroundings so that, for instance, work mates never see their raver side and their raver friends never see their serious academic side.

 

We take on roles as well, that are masks of a sort. These can be affirming but can also lead to imposter syndrome – everyone tells me I am good at something so I behave as if I am but.. what if i’m not??

identity question mark

When we wear a mask we can feel ‘safer’ but at what cost? Research shows that when people wear a physical mask that conceals their identity they are more likely to engage in behaviours that are anti-social and unlike themselves. I’m not saying that putting on your game face to protect yourself from rejection will lead to anti-social behaviour, but I do think it can be an obstacle to being that authentic self, and therefore an obstacle to making strong social connections.

 

I have written before about seeking to be as authentic in life as possible, so it won’t be a surprise that I am in favour of shedding masks to show people who we really are. I am a very open person and have, 9 times out of 10, never regretted showing people who I really am and how I really feel.

 

Masks that help us:

 

Firstly – sometimes we do need to conceal our emotions. It isn’t appropriate for me as a teacher to let my inner turmoil be apparent to my students. I’m very fortunate in that my workmates are friends, but in many workplaces too there is a level of professionalism that requires stoicism. This doesn’t mean that we don’t ask for help if we need it, more that a mask of stoicism helps us function in a professional setting despite significant emotional stress.

 

Secondly – fake it til you make it. Masks can be helpful in convincing us that we can actually do something.

“Dress for the job you want”

Research has shown that when children dress as batman they are more focused in class and attempt all tasks, therefore being more likely to achieve all tasks.

 

Those of you who have read my post on overcoming fear will remember that when i was 15 I fell down Mt Ngauruhoe, smashing open my face. This left me with a lingering fear of steep slippery slopes. When I returned to the mountain as a teacher, I knew I could not have a break down in front of my students. The mask of a competent and in control adult slipped over my face and I was able (with the help of another adult on the trip) to face my fear and walk across the saddle.

 

As with many things in life, it’s how we use our masks that determines whether they help or hinder us. The moment they restrict us from feeling able to access help, or from being who we really are, then we know we should probably drop them.
Dropping your mask can be scary, but it can also be liberating.

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6 thoughts on “The masks we wear – how they help, and how they hinder.

  1. This is a great post and very true. I haven’t worn a mask in a couple of years now, and I feel free and unencumbered. I’m going to check out your post on overcoming fear and then I’m going to subscribe. You have an excellent writing style!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. thank you very much! I appreciate you saying that.
      It is remarkable how freeing it is when we allow our true self, in all its muddy and messy form, to simply just be.
      Thank you again for your kind words!

      Like

  2. jamesnealbooks says:

    Finding that balance between too much mask and not enough has proved tricky for me. I either spill it all on the table day one, or I am Fort Knox on steroids. Thinking of it in terms of “is it restricting me” seems helpful, and something I’ll be taking into the future. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks James 🙂 I confess I am a little that way too. I’ve learned I can be quite bristly sometimes, quite without meaning to. More so to be honest after my marriage break up – it’s that learning to trust again thing.
      I am glad you think that is a helpful way to look at it – i have certainly found that if we think about emotions as useful or unhelpful in a given context it’s a bit easier to deal with them.
      thanks for your kind words 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Really enjoyed this blog, Clementine. Thank you for sharing it. I admire your approach of living as authentically as possible – without masks – and I also like that you aren’t nonsensical about it, i.e. that you acknowledge the times when it is appropriate to wear a mask, so to speak. Living authentically is so important to me, too, and yet I find myself putting on masks to fit in quite often in life. Thanks for giving me something to think about.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Holden! thanks for your comment. I am so glad you liked it and found something to think about in it. I think we all put on masks and sometimes it’s good even though it conceals who we are. I think, as with most things, it is balance.

      Liked by 1 person

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