“Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.”
We all wear masks. It’s true.
They protect our raw and vulnerable hearts from judgments and expectations (from ourselves and others). With our masks, we can be anything we want to be; speak any words that come to mind; even behave in ways that bring realness to whatever character we might be playing.
But, there is a cost. Our truth becomes muddled and skewed.
The more masks we wear and layers we wrap around ourselves, the further we get from the true essence of who we are. We sacrifice freedom for safety; exposure for protection; and courage for complacency. Our way of being is compromised as we step away from the boldness of our hearts and into the confusion of fear.
And really, we just miss out on a lot of fun. There is something so beautiful about stripping down; being naked; and reveling in the perfect flaws that make us incomparable and unique.
I remember a time in my life, not so long ago, when I was wearing so many masks that I couldn’t even recognize myself. When I looked in the mirror, I saw someone that resembled “me” but her eyes sparkled with an emptiness. It was like my spirit was calling but I was too far away to hear her voice (or maybe I was just ignoring her).
There were moments when my inner warrior would claw her way to the surface and rip off the masks. The pain was bittersweet but would always offer a moment of vulnerability and connection. These ecstatic experiences usually happened when I was singing on stage. My heart was splayed open and my true being had her moment to shine. Sadly, these moments were fleeting.
Looking back, the scariest part of this time was that I was the only one who knew I was hiding. To everyone around me, it appeared that I was telling the truth. And, in some ways, I was. I was telling the truth from the perspective of whatever mask I was wearing on any given day. There was comfort in the filters. And, even though it tortured my soul, it made my ego swell with pride.
For years, these masks “protected” me from my truth. Or, so I believed.
After slowly and painstakingly removing my masks, one by one, I now know that they were not really protecting me; they were hiding me. They were taking all the awe-inspiring, wild, off-the-wall, brilliant aspects of my truth and neatly packaging them in a way that was easily digestible to the bigger world.
It was a pretty package. A pretty package that needed to be ripped open and set free. And, here I am. Ready to tell the truth without any mask. Just my soul, spirit, warrior-woman, nakedness. And, it feels good. Raw, but good.
Oh, and if there is any question, I believe that man tells a bigger, better truth without his mask.
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Editor: Rachel Nussbaum
Photo: elephant archives