What mask are you wearing?

I like to think of myself as a relatively observant person. In my mind, I am fairly good at seeing people – their strengths, their weaknesses, their beauty, and their darkness.

This week I was presented with a situation that overtly challenged this belief. When I was in class this week with one of my senior teachers, a person came in late and sat down next to me as usual. For the first twenty minutes of class I was distracted by this person’s presence because they behaved towards me as though there was some level of familiarity. And yet, I couldn’t place them and continued to wrack my brain for who this person could be.

And after about 10 more minutes attempting to figure out who this person was, I ventured a blind guess based upon the greatest amount of logic I had at my disposal. “So-n-so?” I asked?

“Yeah, Jess?”

“You look so different,” was all that could come out of my mouth.

In reality, the only thing that was different about this person that I have known for 3 1/2 – 4 years is that he’d shaved. In all the time I have known this person, I apparently never considered what he might look like without his facial hair.¬†Hair there and I knew who he was, hair gone and I was clueless, lost.

All this got me to think, “How often do we really see the people that we interact with – especially those who are close to us?”Do we actually see the people who we interact with daily or just think that we do?

This question becomes even more poignant when we ask ourselves how many disagreements or misunderstandings might occur because we’ve never really taken the time to ask how clearly we are actually seeing, taking in, understanding our parents, our partners, our siblings, our friends, our co-workers, or even ourselves. What if all the feelings of confusion, disagreement, discontent, isolation, and loneliness was caused by a faulty assumption on our part ?

That is, what if our challenges with people (including ourselves) comes from mistakenly viewing the various masks that we wear – whether it is a beard, make-up, various accomplishments, extra weight, wealth, or lack there of – as being reflective of all that a person is? For as my friend confided in me after class, he’d grown the beard as a protective mask. And as one who’s taken similar measures, I can understand the reasoning behind why he would want to do so. The danger becomes when we forget that we are more than the masks that we wear.

So the question that I have for you, the one I am hoping to begin to answer for myself this week is: what mask are you currently wearing and do you still need to wear this mask (i.e. whether it be extra weight, lack of self-care, extra facial hair, excess make-up, the idea of perfection, etc.)?

Many of us adopt certain behaviors or looks as a means of self-protection. While these actions might be necessary for a time. It is often easy to forget the beautiful creature that exists beneath that mask. So the next question is, do you still need to retain this mask or can you give yourself permission to lower your guard, and give yourself, and perhaps the world, permission to fully love and embrace this beautiful person that you are? 

Only you will know if you can, or should, do this and only you can take this step.