Time to Drop the Mask – By Christine Callahan-Oke

We all wear masks.  You know, the ones we subconsciously layer on ourselves to match what we think others want to see.  At our core, we all want to be liked and approved of by others.  So we put on various masks throughout much of our lives in order feel like we belong.

Some masks are handed to us by other people and we wear them for years, even when they’re uncomfortable.  And other times we so desperately want a particular mask to fit that we convince ourselves it’s perfect… and invest a lot of energy into making it work.

We may wear masks that say “I’ve got it all together” or “I don’t need anyone’s help, I can handle things on my own” or “I’m a model parent” or “I’m the funny one” or “I’m the shy one.”

I was recently inspired by two blogging friends who got me to thinking about this.

Jodi Chapman suggests in her post Fitting in is so Overrated that people sometimes go against the grain of who they really are simply in order to fit in.  But recognizing this, she says, “I realized that if I tried to “jazz myself up,” – in the form of being loud or zany or more outgoing, it would be a losing battle right from the start. Because in doing so – in even attempting to do so – I would lose myself…”

And Ida Mae West-Simone bravely dropped the mask of super-balanced person, able to juggle the ups and downs of daily life with ease, in this blog post.

I think a big part of conscious living is peeling off the layers that we built up over time to meet the expectations of others.  Then we’re able to figure out who we are and what’s truly important to us.   I believe life’s journey is about embracing what makes us different and bravely sharing our authentic selves with others.

In Brené Brown’s powerful book The Gifts of Imperfection, she says, “When we can let go of what other people think and own our story, we gain access to our worthiness – the feeling that we are enough just as we are and that we are worthy of love and belonging.”  And we are worthy of love and belonging – not later, once we’ve completed a bunch of self-imposed expectations, but right now, exactly as we are.

So in the spirit of being authentic, here are some masks that aren’t the right fit for me.  I’m going to drop them now, with pleasure.

  • The calm, balanced parent – although I freely blog about our household chaos, deep down I try so hard to convince myself I’m calm and balanced… but chaos is chaos.  And that’s okay.
  • The responsible one – I’ve worn many hats in life and have always felt the need to be the responsible one, the one people can count on.  And though I still take my responsibilities seriously, it’s time to get off my high horse – and it’s time to allow myself to count on others who are equally (or more) capable in any given area.

Now, here are some odd things that do fit, that make me me.

In acknowledging and sharing our differences, we give others permission to do the same.   And

what a rich world it becomes when we celebrate – rather than hide – our uniqueness.

Think about your masks.  Are there any you’re ready to drop?