What Mask Are You Wearing?
Rev. Dr. Kitty Boitnott, NBCT, RScP
Heart-Centered Career Transition and Job Search Coach | Stress Management Coaching
What mask do you wear on occasion? I am not referring to the physical masks we are wearing to protect ourselves and others from COVID and its variants. I am talking about the psychological masks we adopt to help us hide our true selves from other people.
Sometimes, we choose to wear a mask over our authentic personality to protect ourselves because we don't want to reveal our vulnerabilities.
We think that if we can hide behind a mask, we can't get hurt.
Even people with the deepest and strongest connections to their true selves wear masks at times. In this sense, "wearing a mask" refers to the front we put up for others.
We may have more than one mask that we choose to wear on any given occasion. It depends on the situation. Take a look at some of the more common masks that people tend to wear. Which ones have your worn? Which are your favorites? Which ones hold you back from being your true self and experiencing deep, meaningful relationships with others?
Mask 1: The People Pleaser
The people-pleaser mask is worn when one has a hard time saying "no." They don't want to disappoint anyone, so they agree to do things even when they don't want to.
Pleasing other people isn't bad as long as it doesn't rob you of your sense of self. However, it becomes harmful when you put others' needs above your own to your detriment.
The true people pleaser not only never says "no" to any request, but they also don't know how to say "no." They have never set up healthy boundaries. Instead, they have taught other people through their actions that they can be taken advantage of. As a result, people take advantage of the people pleasers, in their lives. They know they can, and they do.
Learning to say "no" can be difficult, but it can be done. It may take practice. It may take learning that sometimes you need to focus on your own needs instead of the needs of others. If you are wearing the people pleaser mask, consider the harm it is doing to yourself and commit to putting an end to it.
Mask 2: The In-Crowder
The folks who wear the in-crowd mask are similar to the people pleasers. They differ in one crucial way, however. The in-crowder doesn't want to lose favor with a specific person or group of people. Instead, they yearn for the approval of the people they consider to be in the "in-crowd."
Think back to high school. There were the cheerleaders who were one in-crowd. Then there were the football players, the basketball players, etc. The jocks were another in-crowd. If you weren't on the cheer squad or didn't play sports, chances are you weren't in the in-crowd.
But even if you were in the in-crowd, you might have feared rejection, and that might have made you act in ways you wouldn't have otherwise. If you are an in-crowder, you will do anything not to be rejected by the crowd that has control over you.
We all need to feel like we are part of a group or community, but it can be taken too far. If you subvert your own needs, wants, or desires to be part of an in-crowd, you may want to consider the harm you are doing to yourself.
Mask 3: The Denier
Self-doubt and denial are the worst. It can be difficult to come to terms with who you are. If you find yourself fighting against your true self, you may be wearing the mask of the denier. Many people in the LBGTQ+ community are deniers, at least for a while. It is scary to come out to people who may not understand or don't want to be around you if they know the truth about you.
Some people have stayed in denial for years.
Unlike denying yourself for the sake of others' happiness, if you are a denier, you deny yourself your genuine self-compassion, acceptance, and respect. In this case, you may not be wearing the denier mask for others; instead, you're wearing it to protect yourself. Rather than accepting yourself for who you are, you may try forcing yourself into something that goes against who you truly are.
Mask 4: The Dampener
Wearing the mask of the dampener results in silencing your authentic personality. Someone who puts the dampener mask over their true self may feel like their personalities are too strong or overbearing.
Rather than allowing your true self to be revealed to others, you may dampen down your personality, actions, or words. You may want to seem more likable or approachable. Rather than being your true, honest self, you keep the dampener mask on because you think your true self might be "too much" for other people to handle.
Mask 5: The Shy
Meeting new people and getting acclimated to a new group is hard. But it's harder for some than others. The mask of the shy is similar to the dampener, with one key difference. People who pull out the mask of the shy may feel afraid or intimidated themselves.
Exposing your true self to new people, especially early on in a new relationship with them, is scary. Rather than going full steam ahead with your true self, you may choose to cover it with the mask of the shy. At first, you choose your words carefully. You may even act differently. You may want to feel others out to see how they might react before revealing the real you.
Regardless of the mask you identify with or which ones have the most appeal to you, it is a good idea to consider dropping the masks altogether. Go ahead and be honest, whether it is with people you know or strangers you just met. Be real. Be authentic.
The irony in all this is that the people we tend to admire the most are the ones who dare to reveal themselves and to be vulnerable. One of the things that Oprah's career such a success was that she chose to be open and honest and, at times, raw. Millions of people loved her for that and still do.
We all need to worry less about what other people might think and care more about what WE think and want. Life is short. Live it on your own terms. Forget about seeking approval from anyone but yourself. The world might be a happier place if more of us did that.
Until next time.
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