All of us wear masks in life. We use them for protection, most of the time. We use them to keep a distance between us and others. Why? This is how we stay on guard. We use a huge amount of energy to sustain the masks so we can feel safe.
What if we take off the masks? Or at least take off a few of them? What do we think will happen? Rejection? Fear we will lose something we are desperate to keep? Fear we will not be loved?
If any of these outcomes seem likely to us, we tend to do whatever is necessary to prevent them from happening. So we all too easily give away our own power. We let go of our own voice, who we really are. We say yes to what others want us to be.
Yet a far more expressive and positive feeling comes out of being authentic — out of speaking our truth. This doesn’t mean we suddenly have a license to say whatever we want (unless we’re Internet trolls and possess no personal integrity about what we want to say). It means we are willing to say yes to the core ideas and thoughts and feelings that belong to us and which make us unique — and special — and quite wonderful.
So many examples exist of how this wearing of masks can cause harm and I’m going to describe a few, but what is most significant about it all — and why we should care — comes down to this: we pay a steep price if we don’t listen to our own voice and honor it.
Denying who we are can bring with it depression in varying degrees because we are stifling our life-force — that energy of which we are made and live and have our being. Depression so often arises because we do not speak our truth, or feel we are not allowed to speak it, or we are afraid we will lose something or someone if we do. This depression instantly reaches our heart, for we have pushed our vital and unique self away.
Look at your pet, be it a dog or cat or bird, and you know that in the mind and heart of the creature there is no doubt of its rightness of being and its perfect existence right now on this earth. The same is true for you, for all of us. But unlike the animals, we are often too willing to let this knowledge go. We cannot restore our power unless we allow ourselves to exist without masks and say yes to our own rightness of being.
Think of a relationship you began that failed or is now fraught with stress and uncertainty. If it isn’t bringing you happiness and joy most of the time, something is going on that is not good for you. So what is that? At the beginning of any relationship that seems welcoming, we assume the best about the other person — that’s what makes it click. And many times we are exactly right. Other times we discover after a few weeks or months or even days that the person is not who we thought they were, that they make us feel less worthy in some way, or angry, or bereft even, when we are with them.
What is the difference? What is going on?
The people we get along with well allow us to be who we are and we allow them to be who they are. The true meeting ground is a gladness to know each other. Such relationships can exist across distances or years and stay true and real and good.
But when we realize the other person is not allowing us to be ourselves, we begin to have a sinking feeling. Now, this may not be conscious. We may not even perceive it as something negative. We might believe we just need to work out the problems or in some way change each other and all will be well. But the moment you want to change someone so you can get along — it’s a clear sign that there is no true meeting ground. Not at the heart level. It lies instead mainly in expectations, requirements, rules, needs, and demands, however subtle they may be — and none of those thing are life-giving.
It is not only in close relationships that we may feel unable to speak our truth — it is the case in families in general, at work, in groups in any venue. Fitting in means saying what people want to hear, not ruffling the waters, not standing out, not speaking in your own voice. Not resisting what others want from you. Wearing a mask that says you are fine with what they want. And just maybe believing this.
But here’s an exercise — a test run, you could call it. The next time you are in a situation where you usually feel certain you will not be heard and so usually say nothing that is not in accord with the other(s), say something that is in your own voice that you have never dared to say before. It might be a different idea, or a better way to do a project, or a new thought. Speak it without rancor, just to express your own point of view. Remember, choose a situation where you normally would never dream of doing this.
Stay away from anger. That’s not what this is about. Use discernment in the words you speak. But say the words you mean, deep in your heart. Then it will be your soul talking. Your real self. Without the mask. See how it feels.