I little while back I spoke with some work friends about how much of an emotional wreck I had been. They looked at me stunned and almost immediately after burst out laughing . Ok so it wasn’t the reaction that I had been expecting. To be honest I was shocked. Why hadn’t their initial reaction been one of concern and surprise? What was it they found so funny? Or surprising at least?
I proceeded to tell them about how I had been crying a lot and how I have been struggling to deal with my emotions at the best of times. One of my dear friends then said “Really Jasmin?? You’re such a strong woman!” I couldn’t have been more dumb-founded by her reaction. How could it be that other people had such a different view of me than I had of myself?
And then I realised. I hadn’t exactly been open and vulnerable with them. How could I have assumed they would know what was going on?
Ever since I could remember I had been putting on this mask-Jasmin the strong and resilient woman. All the while I had been forgetting to be vulnerable, I was hiding the personal and sensitive side of myself. To be honest I was kind of happy that people saw this strong and independent side to me however at that moment I realised I couldn’t have that deep and personal connection with my friends that I had so desperately been craving.
It was no surprise that I felt alone, angry and like no one really understood me...all of me.
Although I have always thought of myself as being me I have come to realise that we do tend to highlight and project the best possible version of ourselves even when things may not be completely as it seems. Don’t get me wrong I think there certainly is a difference between not being yourself and doing things to please others and masking certain aspects of yourself during difficult times.
So why on Earth would we wear masks?
Well as humans we have a tendency to project aspects of ourselves to adjust and fit in with different people and situations in our lives. Like chameleons who change the colour of their skin to blend in with different environments so do we put on masks to fit in. We put on our work mask, our girlfriend mask or friend mask to fit in to these different situations. Now it’s not all bad. We don’t completely change who we are but rather highlight aspects of ourselves which highlight and bring importance to particular situations. For instance women today no longer act primarily as the primary caregiver in the family. They also have careers, hobbies and passions which they pursue. It is not surprising that because of the many facets of our lives we use masks to blend into each different environment.
Having had this realisation I had inadvertently projected the confident and strong aspect of my personality which had been the appropriate mask to wear working in a corporate hotel.
So you’re probably thinking phew!! I can continue to wear these masks and live my life projecting these different sides to me. Right?!
The answer is sort of...
It’s not about changing who we are or the way we act to the point that we no longer act our most authentic self. See the masks we wear are only positive if we are aware of the different aspects of our personality we are projecting. Also the more masks we wear the harder it becomes to stay our most authentic and true self.
Wearing masks become a problem for two reasons
1. To gain social acceptance
When we change our masks to gain social acceptance or in more simpler terms when we do it ultimately to be liked. If you find yourself doing that in order to be liked by others ask yourself why? Are these people allowing you to be yourself or are they so different that you feel you have to change yourself to fit in? Do you do it because you are worried people won’t like the real you? Or is it because you’re trying to please people that you don’t really relate to? When you pay attention to the different masks you wear you will gain a better insight into your authentic self. You will also have greater control over your masks so that they won’t control you.
2. To hide our emotions and feelings
Like in my story earlier we tend to assume that hiding our emotions will protect us from ourselves and those around us. But in reality all we do it hurt ourselves and create unnecessary and often harmful disconnect between ourselves and those around us. When we hide our fears, our anger, our sadness, we also hide our vulnerability. It’s no wonder we feel disconnected and lonely from friends, family and even co-workers.
Our society projects this idea that a vulnerable person is a weak person, that they aren’t strong enough or resilient enough to be a functioning member of society. Sadly this has created the notion that in order to be successful and happy in life we must dumb down our emotions and amplify a plethora of masks in order to survive and play the game that is life. When we release vulnerability into our world we allow others to see the softness and caring side of ourselves. We share our insecurities and are honest with who we are. Ultimately we release our deepest fears and those negative expectations we all try so hard to control.
What masks have you been wearing? How did it make you feel?
As always I'd love to hear your comments below