When is the last time you allowed yourself to truly be yourself in front of another person?
If you think about it, there are probably only a few instances in your life when you have really let your guard down and allowed yourself to simply, truly be yourself. There are likely only a very few people whom you trust enough to expose yourself to in this manner. Even if you think you are being honest about who you are with the people you interact with on a daily basis, chances are good that you are shielding your true self behind some sort of “social mask.”
Understanding Social Masks & Why We Wear Them
A social mask is a persona we put on when interacting with the various people in our lives. It is a way of covering up our true thoughts, feelings, and selves. We do this for a variety of different reasons. Here are a few common examples of the different types of social masks we wear and the reason behind them:
The Bravery Mask
We all feel anxious and uncertain every now and then. The challenges life presents can often be daunting, unnerving, and sometimes downright scary. While these feelings of anxiety and nervousness have always been a normal part of life, somewhere along the road they became taboo to reveal or discuss. When we hide our anxiety so we can show a confident front to those around us, we are wearing the Bravery Mask.
The Perfection Mask
We all dream of living happy, fulfilled, and contented lives. We look around us and see hundreds of people living happy lives – they have great jobs, strong marriages, outstanding kids, and exciting vacations. We may feel envious or inadequate because we think our lives cannot possibly measure up to theirs. However, the truth is that everyone goes through ups and downs; the fact that we only see the bright, shiny aspects of other people’s lives is because they are wearing the Perfection Mask.
The People Pleaser Mask
Think about the last time someone asked you to do something for them. It could have ranged anywhere from a simple favor – “Can you feed the dog?” – to a bigger task that required much more investment on your part – “Can you finish this project for me?” If you agreed to assist to the task, however large or small it may have been, I want you to take a close look at how you truly felt about completing the task. Was it something you were genuinely happy to do, or did you only say yes out of a sense of obligation and/or the desire to be “nice”? When we say yes to others even when we do not want to, we are wearing the People-Pleaser Mask.
The Angry Mask
Do you know someone who is constantly angry, grumpy, or grouchy? Maybe your neighbor is gruff with you every time you pass each other, or perhaps your teacher is unnecessarily harsh when delivering feedback. Behind their tough exterior, these types of people are typically suffering from a lack of self-confidence. They wear the Angry Mask in an attempt to cover up this vulnerability.
These are just a few examples of the masks many of us wear every other day. Examples of other common masks include the Confidence Mask, the Happiness Mask, and countless others. The face of each of these masks is unique, but they all serve a singular common purpose: to hide our true feelings under a false exterior.
It’s Time to Remove Your Social Masks
Wearing masks is a defense mechanism; it’s easier to put them on than to risk opening ourselves up to the judgment we fear others may place on us if they know the struggles we are truly facing. However, wearing masks is only a superficial fix – it won’t resolve anything in the long run. In fact, hiding our true selves can be detrimental to our relationships with others, as well as our mental and emotional health.
As your trusted online psychotherapist, I am here to encourage you to look closely at the masks you wear on a daily basis. Which ones are they, and what purpose do they serve? No matter how beneficial they may seem, I can almost guarantee you that ultimately, your life will be better off without them. Removing your masks can be scary at first, but ultimately it will allow you to build honest relationships with both yourself and those around you.
I Can Help!
You are not in this alone. You don’t have to take on the process of self-realization and self-discovery without someone by your side. As an online mental health counselor, I can serve as a supportive but impartial third party to assist you on your journey. Together, we can identify which masks you wear the most and how you can begin to practice taking them off. I truly look forward to serving you!