When people do not feel heard, they shrink, hide and become someone they are not in order to gain acceptance. We put on masks that become hard to remove. The longer we put on the masks the more misunderstood we feel because we stop showing up as ourselves. You see these masks on people wherever you go. It seems like living under a mask is the way to live in our world today. They show up in many different forms.
- Status Chaser – Some masks have people chasing money and status to gain approval and acceptance. Never stopping, always striving for the next level on the corporate ladder, creating a bigger business, chasing after the illusion of being the best. Whenever they get to that next level it is never enough. If they think someone else has more status or has more attention, they immediately start thinking of ways to be better or have something better than another to get the affection and admiration of others focused back on them.
- Numbing Out – Others wear the numbing mask. The one that causes a person to buy more stuff, the compulsion to keep buying and keep shopping until they are accepted. The numbing mask isn’t restricted to shopping and acquiring things for approval, it shows itself through other addictions and over indulgences in alcohol, sex, drugs, zoning out on television and yes even mindlessly searching the Internet. All of these are ways to numb out or avoid feeling.
- The Cover Up – Then there is the cover up mask. If you can just put on enough make-up, wear flashy or distracting clothes or go to the extremes of altering your physical appearance through surgeries, then a person might finally feel approved and accepted. This cover up mask also shows up in the form of distracting others from seeing who they really are by tearing down others. The old don’t look at me, look over there, tactic. Pointing a finger, putting others down, judging another so you feel more important. All so you can continue to hide behind an illusion of covering up who you really are out of fear.
- Codependent – This is a tough one to recognize because we all love people who want to do things for us. However, you can spot this as a mask when someone is sacrificing their health and emotional well-being to please other people. They never say no to you, church, charities, and organizations out of fear they won’t experience or be worthy of love or acceptance. They are the ones who never have enough time to take care of themselves. They complain of exhaustion and having too much on their plate. As with all the other masks, this one especially has lost the ability to listen to their own voice.
Every single one of these masks is hiding who we really are and leads to a life that is not your own. Hiding distorts and blocks your ability to see and hear others, yourself and even the world for what it is. You find yourself overwhelmed, stressed out, in debt, in troubled relationships, struggling at work or in a failing business. You are likely to experience a lack in energy, easily angered or agitated, sleeplessness and your thoughts just race through your head most days.
For this week, I want you to become aware. What mask do you tend to put on to get other people to hear you? Just notice, there is no need to judge the mask. The mask has been there for a purpose and you can find out what purpose that is by simply noticing. Perhaps it is a mask to protect you from others or from yourself or to gain approval, acceptance or love. Once you start to identify which mask you put on and see what protection it has been offering you, you will begin to naturally question if the protection is even necessary anymore.
“For everything hidden is meant to be revealed, and everything concealed is meant to be brought to light.” – Mark 4:22
Working with individuals and groups, I have found this identification and questioning process a game changer for people. These masks seem to disappear and with it so do a whole list of issues. People have restored relationships, gotten themselves out of debt, they find themselves sleeping better and their stress levels dramatically decrease. In the workplace I have seen productivity increase, effective collaboration replacing internal competition and increased repots of job satisfaction. Overall, people report they have a deeper sense of peace and joy in life.