The price of your mask
We all have some type of social mask or armour that we wear. When worn in a healthy way, this is good for us and those around us -who don’t really want to have to say ‘too much information!’ to excessive self-disclosure. But there are a number of us wearing unhealthy masks. Masks that mean we don’t quite feel free to be ourselves.
Some of the masks are driven by fear. Fear of failure. Fear of not being accepted. Fear of being criticised. Some are the result of being bullied as a child or teenager and a hesitation now to ‘speak up’ for fear of further rejection that would bring back the trauma of those school days even if they were a decade or two ago. Other masks are a result of an inner voice that whispers an accusing ‘what will people think…?’ with the unspoken finish to the sentence…’and what if they disapprove of or disagree with what you say or do?’ So we:
- agree with people just to keep the peace
- say ‘yes’ to things we really would like to say ‘no’ to
- we don’t state our opinion if we are in a minority
- we put on a brave front of ‘everything is fine’-even to our closest friends- when our world is falling apart
- don’t dare to pursue our dream, or undertake study or go for a more challenging job for fear we’ll fail and be judged by the world as useless
The result? We constantly make choices that are not authentic and aligned with who we really are. We let the approval or opinion of others, trump being true to ourselves. In the many versions of lists of life regrets by people whose lives are ending, high on the list is ‘that I was not more true to myself and show the world the real me.’
If you are wearing an unhealthy mask, what is the cost of it? Some possible costs are:
- Living in a state of constant low level anger and resentment because you are bending to everyone else’s demands and opinions.
- Regular frustration and negative self-talk as you regret the times you weren’t real.
- Potential stress and anger related health issues because of what is bottled up from regularly suppressing the real you.
- Missing out on meaningful and authentic interactions with likeminded people because your mask is hiding the real you and therefore they are not drawn to you.
- Missing some tailor made opportunities because you are hiding your true talent and potential.
- Living with a lot of ‘what ifs’ for the many things you were too fearful to try.
- An absence of support because you are letting no one in in times of need.
Removing our unhealthy masks can be scary-but maybe the alternative is even scarier! It starts with our thoughts and our beliefs. Here are a few suggestions to help take off the mask and breathe freely and experience people enjoying the ‘real’ you instead of the masked version:
- Ask yourself, what is the worst that could happen? So I fail something I tried? The world won’t end and those who try to make you feel bad are more likely to be expressing their own insecurities or even envy at the fact you had the courage to try.
- A $100 note that is stomped on, crumpled up and tossed aside is still worth $100.00. Its beating did nothing to diminish its value. Same with you, your worst fears could be realised in terms of disapproval but it does nothing to change your value as a human being.
- Remember how many times in the past you worried about something that never happened or actually turned out to be quite a good situation.
- Ask yourself if the worst is realised, will it matter 3 days, 3 weeks, 3 months or 3 years from now-the answer usually is no.
- Learn to say no more frequently and set firmer boundaries-especially with your time and energy. An angry response from the person or people involved may signal their frustration at the fact that you are no longer asking ‘how high?’ every time they say ‘jump’ and a sign to you that you’ve made the right decision.
Whatever the case, remember that only you can offer the world the unique set of skills, experiences, and personality that make you YOU. Wearing a mask not only costs you, but it deprives the rest of us of experiencing the very best version of you.