“The greatest battle we face as human beings is the battle to protect our true selves from the self the world wants us to become.”
What one presents to the world is not necessarily how one feels of oneself…
Many people hide behind an identity or a mask to avoid being really “seen”.
By hiding feelings and emotions, people are usually in fear of how they will be perceived and even of their own self-images.
Unfortunately, the most frequent way this is manifested in behavior is by silence and withdrawal. Our culture is a factor which may cause people to hide their feelings - culture demands that the answer to the question “How are you?” is “Good”, “Great”...or “Awesome”.
There’s this relentless drive to mask the expression of our true underlying feelings.
But...hidden feelings can be very destructive of the person having them and the people around them.
You can hide your brokenness behind the mask…but there will come a day when even that is cracking…
Think about…what kind of masks do you wear?
Have you noticed…how many people are wearing masks…they hide behind anything - from a false smile, cosmetic injections/surgeries to sunglasses…
Very often we hide behind the clothes, our job title, and an identity in a company – being a manager, or a doctor, or a lawyer…think about – who you are without an identity and a job title…
There are also emotional masks…the masks we hide behind because of fear…if we are insecure - we might hide behind the mask of name-dropping - casually mentioning the names of famous people one knows or claims to know in order to impress others. When we are unsure of our power…we can hide behind the mask of being a bully…if we don’t think the world loves us…we can hide behind a mask of anger…we mask the debt we’ve incurred to pay for lifestyles we can’t afford…we pretend things are fine at work…when our jobs are on the line…we pretend things are okay in our relationships…when there is distance and pain...
The most dangerous form of depression hides behind a smile - the façade - such depression often starts early in life and can last a long time…The term “smiling depression” - appearing happy to others while internally suffering depressive symptoms - has become increasingly popular.
While smiling depression is not a technical term that psychologists use, it is certainly possible to be depressed and manage to successfully mask the symptoms. Smiling depression involves appearing happy to others and smiling through the pain, keeping the inner turmoil hidden. It’s a major depressive disorder with atypical symptoms, and as a result…many don’t know they’re depressed or don’t seek help… People with smiling depression are often partnered or married, employed and are quite accomplished and educated...their public, professional and social lives are not struggling…their façade is put together and accomplished…
In fact, a significant proportion of people who experience a low mood and a loss of pleasure in activities manage to hide their condition in this way.
For the people who suffer from smiling depression it is particularly important to get help. Sadly…though...people suffering from this condition usually don’t…because they might not think that they have a problem in the first place - this is particularly the case if they appear to be carrying on with their tasks and daily routines as before. They may also feel guilty and rationalize that they don’t have anything to be sad about…so they don’t tell anybody about their problems and end up feeling ashamed of their feelings.
But…these people might be particularly vulnerable to suicide…there’s a troubling connection between smiling depression and suicide…
So…It can be very hard to spot people suffering from smiling depression…they have perfect facade…and so we believe too - they don’t have a reason to be sad - they have a job, an apartment and maybe even children or a partner…they smile when you greet them and can carry pleasant conversations…In short, they put on a mask to the outside world while leading seemingly normal and active lives… Inside, however, they feel hopeless and down…
One of our greatest fears is that if we show our true selves, the world will say,
“Oh, it’s just you.”
But being just you is actually the best and most perfect thing you could ever be.
As Oscar Wilde said, “Be yourself; everyone else is taken.”
Eventually…if it goes well…at some point the mask slips…because of what we want to - just to be yourself. It takes courage to be yourself.
How can you remove your mask?
Awareness is a major part of recognizing that you are not being your authentic self. Start by being YOU. Sometimes it can be really hard to suddenly “be you” when you don’t really know who you are anymore. You have so many labels of identity, but they’re not necessarily YOU. You can choose to become aware, and choose to let down your mask. Think about who you are, and what you really want.
2. Recognize that your mask is not truly you
It’s exhausting pretending to be someone that you’re not… and then you have to think about whether your behavior or what you say is appropriate for the “perfect mother” role, the “good girl” or “happy” when you feel lost, or whatever role you’ve chosen to play. Start becoming aware of aware of your mask and it’s limitations… What is expected of you when you’re wearing the mask? Each day, focus on doing one activity that isn’t “playing a role”. Do something that brings you joy and enchantment.
Realizing that the mask is not truly you. It was an identity that you created when you were probably much younger to protect yourself and keep you safe. Maybe you became the class clown to avoid the bullies, or the “carer” because you were caring for others. The mask is not something to be embarrassed about. It served you well, but now you are ready to embrace who you truly are. The mask is now holding you back from the person you are meant to be – now is the time to be authentically you.
4. Commit to being you
Some people spend much of their lives pretending to be someone they’re not. Commit to being YOU. It takes commitment, and in the beginning it’s hard to break the habit of playing a role, but remember that it takes 21 days to break a habit, and 60 days to reinforce a new habit.
5. Take action
Take the steps that you need to be YOU. If that means saying “no” to someone when you’ve always been the “good girl” then practice saying no on the small stuff first of all. Do the things what brings you joy on a daily basis. Don’t focus on the past – focus on who you are! Focus on creating passion in your daily life. Making sure that you have time for doing the things you love - walking in nature, swimming or going for a bike ride.
There are three practical reasons why we should shed our masks.
The first is to live to our potential. We have to bring all of who we are to what we do.
The second reason is relief. It is exhausting to live an inauthentic life. You put on a mask or two or 10, then take a few off, then put a couple more on. It’s exhausting! Worst of all, you start forgetting who you really are.
The third reason is healing. When we wear masks, we carve a piece of ourselves out—withholding parts of ourselves as unworthy. But in relationships, we can’t be truly healed unless we offer up all the pieces. It’s like handing someone a broken vase and asking him or her to fix it but holding back two or three of the broken pieces. The willingness to express feelings to others is totally dependent on how we feel about ourselves. If we are confident and feel comfortable within our own skins we will be much more willing to express our feelings and our emotions to others.
- We weren’t born with masks.
We put them on, so we can also take them off.
- The most important freedom in a person's life is to be who you really are.
- Remember that you are enough, you are worthy, you are loved and you are not alone.
Get ready for World Mental Health Day on 10 October 2020...raise your awareness...be ready to open up to mental health topics...to talk about these topics and to listen...