What masks do you wear?
We go through life wearing a variety of them. Ones we are given, ones we choose, some we outgrow and some we hold in place with dear life.
What are these masks portraying? What are they hiding? Are they giving us space to be what we are or what we want to be or do we use them to cover what is underneath? We will often use many in one day, change them with precision, expertly knowing which is best to use when and with who.
Some come with expectations, some are worn for protection.
How much consideration do we really give to which mask we wear?
I know I have often worn masks that were given to me by others, ones they thought I needed, ones I have never felt comfortable in, never quite felt I could see clearly in, yet alone speak but I obliged and dutifully kept in place.
Underneath, feeling confused and uncomfortable the masks somehow became to feel they were the safer option then to change into one that was more fitting to my facial shape.
For all the ill fitting masks I received and all the ones a made myself and wore, the more misshaped I felt I became underneath. Forcing my features into a mold that wasn’t of my own fitting.
I often wondered if others felt this uncomfortable feeling underneath their masks they had on or was what I was seeing their true face. Are they really as happy as their face makes out they are? Deciding this was hard work when what I was looking through wasn’t giving me a clear view either.
Convincing myself that people’s smiles where true I continued to keep that smile etched on my mask, believing that a smile should me the only expression seen, and telling myself “if they are smiling then I must “.
However this was hard going, whatever mask I had on I was always wishing I could be as comfortable in it as I was when I was alone and had taken the mask off. Allowing the mask to be laid down.
I never really dared to go without a mask, maybe with family and a few friends (or maybe they just got the partial facial covering mask wearing me). During the times I was alone without a mask I began to spend time looking in the mirror at the face I saw in the reflection. I would stare at what was shown to me and listen to what I heard coming up to begin to understand what was really there behind the masks I'd placed on my face. I became friends with who I was “mask free”.
So I began to imagine what it would be like to show my true features to others, to show the “real” face. I began testing this out with certain people, the ones I felt a sense of safety around. The ones I believed also wore thin coverings, or none at all. These people began to give me confidence to be “me”, to be “mask free”, even if there were parts that weren’t that pretty to look at.
At times the mask did slip back on, feeling exposed I needed to cover up. But I gently learnt it was ok to remove the covering up and not need to apologise for what was seen in it’s truth. Sometimes the mask was on momentarily, other times it was on for a length of time. Sometimes I realised certain people didn’t deserve to see me mask free, but this didn’t stop me from wanting to continue to let my face be exposed to others.
I’ve learnt that masks are useful, masks can often be needed at times. They can support at times of change, challenge and uncertainty. But I now understand it should only ever be our choice of what one we place on, for how long and why. They shouldn’t be used for deceitfulness or to hurt. That is cowardly.
We should learn to recognise when we are choosing for ourselves, to politely thank someone if they hand us one of their’s and to know it’s ok to decline to use it. We need to learn to love what we are hiding away. Get to know that face, the eyes, the nose and the smile. Allow the face to radiate out the love that we all have within us.
I know I am now happy even if at times apprehensive to go “mask free”. I am willing to show vulnerability, to show fear, to show awkwardness but also to allow the same face to show strength, love and curiosity for all that is before me.
Yes I’ll put a mask on at times, I have a few (not as many as I did before) but I am now aware of why and when it’s on, and will easily remove when it’s no longer needed.
LET THE MASK BEGIN TO SLIP AND FEEL THE AIR HIT YOUR FACE.