Years ago, my best friend was hired to throw a Marti Gras party for a small company in our area. It was fall. The kids had gone back to school and I found myself with some extra time on my hands (what was that like??) so I helped her with the preparations. One of the party favors that needed to be created–masks for each guest.
The masks ranged from simple to elaborate. Some were covered in crystals with feathered plumes sticking out the side. Others were painted with artistic designs. They ranged in color from bright to black. But all were beautiful–carefully crafted and pleasing for even the most discerning guest.
The mask I created for myself was all black, covered in crystals, with a silky soft feather standing like a sentinel off to the left side. When I wore it, I was transformed from my normally introverted self to a mysterious, outgoing creature who socialized and made small talk with complete strangers. It was an interesting phenomenon. For whatever reason, when my face was covered, a different version of myself could emerge with confidence and interact on a level that would usually be reserved for my closest friends.
The Transformative Power of Masks
I’ve often thought about that mask. I’ve wondered where it got its transformative powers and why it became so easy for me to interact with others while wearing it. I was trained from an early age to don pretenses whenever I interacted with other people. My siblings and I wore disguises as part of our daily routine. We were hiding the truth of our lives behind masks that kept those closest to us from seeing what was really going on in our lives. When I think back to my childhood, I’m struck by the incredible part I played in keeping our family secrets hidden. I probably deserve some sort of acting award for my performances, day after day, week after week. It’s amazing I didn’t crack!
And that’s what got me thinking about the “disguises” I’ve worn throughout my life. Much like a costume at Halloween, they transformed me into someone other than the scared little girl of my childhood or the depressed mother of five young children or the wife of a porn addict. They allowed me to put on a happy face and live a life that I wasn’t feeling on the inside. They gave me an opportunity to escape from the heartache that seemed to invade all of my relationships.
“Airing Dirty Laundry” or Authenticity?
When I look back on my life, I can see that I wore masks, costumes, and disguises on a regular basis in the past. But at some point, I tore them off and quit trying to hide my reality. Not everyone likes that. Many people see it as “airing dirty laundry” or “oversharing.”
I see it as authenticity.
I see it as being real.
I see it as sharing who I really am.
Because here’s the thing. When we don’t allow people to be themselves, when we expect everyone to stay in their box and behave, we miss out on the opportunity to get to know someone incredible. We miss out on the gifts they have to offer to the world. And those gifts, the ones they are hiding because they don’t “fit it” or aren’t “appropriate,” they might be exactly the gifts that are missing in the world today!
Shedding the Disguise
I’ve thrown away my masks. I’ve gotten rid of my costumes (except that box I keep around for Halloween). I’ve shed the disguises. I’ve vowed to just be me.
Not everyone will like the new me. In fact, I’ve noticed that people who used to seek out my company have quit coming around. But that’s okay because those people are not my people.
Shedding the masks has allowed me to empathize with other women who have also struggled with trauma and abuse. It’s given me the opportunity to work with clients who think they’re not enough and help them see their incredible worth. It’s put me in a position to speak to audiences of women who need to know that they’re not alone in their challenges. In fact, during the past two years I’ve been able to support dozens of women as they’ve healed from their own trials and moved on to create the life they deserve and a future they love. It’s been an incredibly rewarding journey!
Since releasing my book, SEVERED: A Memoir of Hope and Healing, I’ve connected with friends who had no idea what was going on in my life at the time. We laugh together and shed a few tears as they share their stories of tragedy and triumph. And to think I may have never experienced any of this if I hadn’t been willing to rip off my mask, throw away the disguise, and just be me.
Through this process, I’ve come to realize something profound. While I was hiding behind the masks, throwing up walls of protection, and keeping everyone at bay, I was only hurting myself. Because what I’ve learned is that we all have something we’re trying to cover. But when you’re willing to bring that thing out into the open, it frees you to let go of fear and allow your faith to flourish. It frees you to create authentic friendships and deep connections with other people. It frees you to become the person you were meant to be
So, are you hiding behind masks of your own? Have you donned a disguise and tucked your secrets away in an effort to fit in? Are you so accustomed to wearing a costume that you’re not really sure who you are anymore? It’s time to come out of hiding!
Join us on Instagram @Mission2beHappy or in the Mission to be Happy Facebook Group. We’d love to share the things we’re learning and hear about what you’re doing to shed your masks, as well. See you inside the group!
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