We all wear different masks in different situations, depending on our roles, expectations, and level of trust for those around us in various situations. For many people, including those living with addiction, trauma history, mental health concerns, and minority status, wearing a mask is second nature. I asked my clients this week to share one of the masks they wear and their responses were tremendously revealing. Some common themes I've heard in response to this question over the past five years are listed below:
I wear a mask of pride, because I don’t want people to see the fear and confusion that lies beneath.
I wear a mask of anger, to prevent people from getting too close to me. This way, I don’t give people the opportunity to hurt me.
I wear a mask of overconfidence in my sobriety, but I’m really scared that I will relapse.
I wear a mask of humor and tend to brush everything off as a joke, so people don’t know that I’m hurting inside.
Can you relate to any of these masks? Think about the different types of masks you wear on a daily basis. Perhaps they change based on your role (i.e. parent, sibling, child, student, employee, etc.) or location (i.e. private or public situations). What purpose do your masks serve you?
A lot of people put on masks as a means to protect themselves from different uncomfortable emotions, like shame, disappointment, or vulnerability. But, by doing so, we prevent ourselves from building authentic connections with other people and accessing the support that is necessary for healing. Through years of pain, we may have built up layers upon layers of masks and forget or lose sight of who we truly are at our core.
It’s a scary prospect to think about removing those masks, but it is one that is necessary in the recovery process. As a result, I encourage you to think about what you need to feel safe doing so. Can you start by allowing yourself to recognize what is behind the masks you wear? Start by slowly peeling back the layers while you are alone, reminding yourself that you can put the masks back on at any time, if you choose to do so. Once you become more familiar with what lies beneath your masks, you can start sharing this part of yourself with others.
Can you identify anyone in your support system with whom you’d feel comfortable sharing some of what lies behind your masks? Again, start slow. Be honest with yourself and others. Let yourself be seen. And recognize that while allowing yourself to be seen can be extremely uncomfortable, it is also necessary to live a life of authenticity and break free from your own self-built prison walls that keep you trapped behind the masks you wear.
Are you looking for a place where you can be seen, without any fear of judgment? Therapy is a great place to learn more about your true self and practice removing your masks. Please contact me to schedule a free phone consultation to discuss your treatment options and see if we would be a good fit.