Taking Off Our Masks

I’ve never been a member of Facebook. To be candid, I have not even had a My Space page. I’m really not sure if My Space still exits! I also have heard of Instagram, but I honestly don’t know what it is. My friends have been begging me to join Facebook for over ten years, but my reticence to join is because of the real fear that if I do, it will be one more thing in my life that separates me from authentic relationships with others. I know for many people Facebook is a healthy way to stay connected to love ones, but right now I feel so plugged in to my email, text messages, LinkedIn account and technology in general that it feels like a legitimate worry that Facebook will keep me from the more important values in my life.

Another fear I have of Facebook, is that joining it will lead me to play the comparison game. “Keeping up with the Joneses” has been part of our society for some time, but with social networking on the rise the number of “Joneses” we have to compare ourselves to has expanded considerably. What people understandably tend to post on Facebook are the happy times in their lives, including parties, new homes, the latest car and their most recent exotic vacation. Friends of mine on Facebook have admitted it is rare for people to post about the more difficult challenges of life. How often do people acknowledge on their accounts how hard it is to make ends meet? Or are they honest about the problems they are facing in a marriage? How many people admit the raw emotions of sadness and anger they feel about the death of a loved one?

I may not be on Facebook, but I know there have been and continue to be times in life when I am guilty of comparing myself to others. It is important to have this awareness about our propensity to use social media as a pathway to prove our worth to others, because if we are not careful it can put us in a constant race to keep up with the material possessions, job titles and accomplishments of others. 

We wear so many masks to prove our worth to others. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and other social media accounts are just a few of the masks we wear. Masks are not inherently bad. The masks we wear can be a means of protecting ourselves. These facades also serve as a way of trying to be understood and they are a means of projecting our personas to the biosphere. But I believe we often wear our masks to validate our sense of self. In our day to day lives, we wear many masks including the veneer of self-righteousness, perfectionism, busyness, successfulness, positivity and control.

I sometimes ask counseling clients to allow their inner artist to come out to play and create two masks with colored pencils. I invite them to draw the external mask they allow the world to see and the internal mask that only a few people see. They can use words on or around their masks. It’s a wonderful exercise to make the unconscious more conscious. Often when I do this exercise with others, it becomes an opportunity to look at the masks they wear. What often lurks underneath these masks is fear, depression, shame, grief and anger. I remind people when we do this exercise that one of reasons we put on our masks is our fear that we don’t do enough, have enough and ultimately that we are not enough.

This holiday season is a time of year when I am guilty of putting on masks. Because my husband’s siblings live in Franklin and Atlanta we are the middle ground between these two cities and so we often host a gathering for his family around both Thanksgiving and Christmas. I admitted to my sister-in-law recently how jealous I am at how relaxed she seems when she hosts us at her home. When we go to her place she is able to cook a beautiful meal and yet she seems so rooted in the present moment. When we host a dinner we often go into perfectionism mode. We become so frenetic making sure the house is perfectly clean, the decorations are all up, the presents are wrapped under the tree and that the meal is just right that we often miss the joy of this season. I’m setting an intention that this year I will take off my masks of control, perfectionism and busyness so that I don’t miss this opportunity to connect more with my loved ones during this season.

What masks do you need to take off? You truly are already enough. You don’t need to prove your worth to others. It does require self-awareness and vulnerability to take off these masks, but it is so liberating when we give up these facades. I pray you experience the joy, peace, hope and love of this time of year.

Let’s take off our masks and enjoy this season,


I originally wrote the article above for the Mountain Mirror. http://www.mountainmirror.com/

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