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Are you wearing a mask?

Updated: Oct 31, 2023

If you think that you are not wearing a mask, think again! There are always places, reasons, relationships where we don't feel safe and we choose to behave differently. Even at work, we may feel the pressure to be a certain way and never be able to say our truth or be authentic. Most of these masks feel like a benign role playing exercise and cause no harm. The problem starts when we really forget ourselves in the shuffle and become exhausted to keep up the pretense.

The Japanese say that you have three faces:

1. The first face, you show to the world.

2. The second face, you show to your close friends and your family.

3. The third face, you never show anyone. It is the truest reflection of who you are.

Personal and social masks help us hide our fears, avoid judgment and keep our emotions safe. It also means less chances of being rejected. Masking can be a behavior individuals adopt subconsciously as coping mechanisms or a trauma response, or it can be a conscious behavior an individual adopts to fit in within perceived societal norm. When you experience trauma and/or rejection for being who you truly are, it's common to think you need to hide these traits to survive.

Coping mechanisms are strategies or behaviors that individuals use to manage or deal with challenging or distressing situations. Masking, as a coping mechanism, involves concealing one's true emotions, thoughts, or struggles as a way to navigate social situations or cope with internal difficulties.

Let us explore various situations and see which pattern you identify with:

For example, at work, lot of us are unhappy with our job but putting up a mask of fitting in because of the fear of losing credibility or losing the job. In the long term, this is a recipe for burnout because you are spending lot of energy pretending to behave in a certain way that is uncomfortable in different ways. Some day, you will need to admit to yourself that something needs to change. Before you change your job, it is a worthwhile exercise to enumerate your fears and reasons for your dissatisfaction. Then, take the right steps to either accept the situation for now, until you can come up with a better solution. This will save lot of exhausting dialogue going on in your head.

The other aspect of masking at work is hiding your true talents. It is possible that you have an interest or passion that is totally opposite of the area of expertise expected of you and you feel betrayed when you can't share. For example, a doctor may be interested in painting, a lawyer may like cooking and an engineer may love energy healing. Think of this as a gift and dimension of yourself rather than a shame to hide behind a mask.

Identify which relationship in your life is taking a toll on your health. Are you hiding and pretending that all is well while you are feeling rotten inside. It may require lot of courage to establish boundaries, ask for changes or leave it altogether to save your soul.

Hiding yourself may preserve the relationship for a while, but this is at too high a cost. The cost is that in this relationship you always will have the feeling that you don't legitimately belong. Or that if people like you, they aren't liking the real you, which makes you feel even more inherently unlikable.

The worst kind of masking is hiding from your own self. This may mean that you are dressing up in ways that don't flow with you, make friends who don't really care, collecting material things that give you no satisfaction and abuse your body with excess of everything. The other kind of mask is pretending that all is well when you really need to face your emotions like grief, depression and despair. Web MD recommends that people who want to stop masking do the following: Be mindful of why they're masking. If masking provides a sense of emotional and physical safety, it may be something they choose to continue, versus if it is something they feel compelled to do to make other people happy. If your mask is keeping you happy, safe and satisfied that means you are comfortable and confident in your role.

Here are some suggestions to try:

  1. Notice how you behave around people and situations

  2. Write down what actually scares you, face one fear at a time

  3. Pay attention to which relationship is not empowering you and why?

  4. Rethink your passion and the job combination to see how you integrate or change

  5. Try a BodyTalk session to empower yourself


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