As I look around and see all faces around me covered with masks, I can’t help but think: is this the reflection of what we all have been hiding inside all along?
“How are you?”
“I’m good, and you?”
While, in fact, we may have wanted to say:
“I’m tired of people asking me this question without even waiting for my reply. I’m tired of people who listen only with the intent to respond but not to understand.”
“I feel lonely and hurt. In fact, I wish I could go to some deserted island so that I never have to participate in ‘small talk’ again.”
Instead, we say little, put on the mask, and end up saying yes to something that we don’t want. We do it out of obligation or fear of disappointing others. We pretend that everything is okay while clearly it isn’t. (Just another typical daily interaction.)
We all play certain roles in our society, and it’s part of our lives. The roles such as father, mother, son, employee, employer, daughter, and so on. We play them so well that we often even forget what’s beneath all of those roles.
The more we hide and go against ourselves, the tighter the masks get until we have barely any oxygen left to breathe.
Our dreams seem to be long gone, foolish, and most definitely selfish, irresponsible, or unrealistic. And so we continue to suppress ourselves, falsely assuming that if we can play our roles or fulfill our duties well enough, we will finally find that happiness, love, or approval that we seek.
As I walk down the supermarket aisle, I can’t help but think that this is not the first time we’ve been wearing masks.
We need to get in touch with our true, authentic selves.
Here are a few tips on how to reconnect with your authentic self:
1. Get real
In order to be authentic, we need to be willing to embrace every aspect of who we are, including our vulnerabilities, quirks, insecurities, and fears. When we embrace what’s “weird” and unique about us, we have paved a path for others to do the same. It may sound like a paradox, but there is power in vulnerability, in courage to keep our hearts open, and in willingness to feel it all.
2. Stop trying to look good
Trying to look good at all costs usually comes with a price to pay. The price is trading parts of ourselves in order to feel accepted and liked. I don’t know about you, but I remember a phase of my life when I was drinking in order to fit in and to look cool regardless of how it made me feel.
Chances are that when you show your true, authentic colors, some people are not gonna like them. But if you think about it, not everyone is your cup of tea either. People will continue to have opinions no matter what you do or say. So you might as well be yourself and stand up for what you believe in. By being authentic, you have a much greater chance to attract people into your life who genuinely appreciate you for who you are.
“Be more concerned with your character rather than your reputation.” ~ John Wooden
3. Let go of other people’s expectations of you
When we are not true to ourselves, we risk waking up one day living somebody else’s life and wondering why nothing fits. It reminds me of one section in the book Eat Pray Love, written by Elizabeth Gilbert—the moment when she found herself sobbing on the bathroom floor and feeling like a stranger in her own house.
“I don’t want to be married anymore. I don’t want to live in this big house. I don’t want to have a baby. But I was supposed to want to have a baby. I was thirty-one years old. My husband and I—who had been together for eight years, married for six—had built our entire life around the common expectation that, after passing the doddering old age of thirty, I would want to settle down and have children. By then, we mutually anticipated, I would have grown weary of traveling and would be happy to live in a big, busy household full of children and homemade quilts, with a garden in the backyard and a cozy stew bubbling on the stovetop. (The fact that this was a fairly accurate portrait of my own mother is a quick indicator of how difficult it once was for me to tell the difference between myself and the powerful woman who had raised me.)”
There is an old saying that an apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. I find it quite ironic that a lot of us subconsciously shape our lives either as an imitation of our parents or as a rebellion against them. We get roped in our childhood wounds, and our lives revolve around compensating for an unmet desire to gain our parents’ love. Alternatively, we make it our life’s mission to never be the same as them. Either way, we’re still coming from the same wound. We’re not living a life of a conscious, authentic choice.
4. Define and set healthy boundaries
Your personal boundaries are based on your own value system and perspective and might be totally different from those of your friends, other people, parents, society, or partner. Nobody else but you can tell you where your boundaries lie. Therefore, it is crucial to know yourself more and your own personal truth if you want to develop healthy boundaries. Boundaries are not there to control what other people do or don’t. They are about defining and following your preferences, personal integrity, desires, and needs.
I invite you to ask:
In what way do you abandon or go against yourself?
What lies beneath all your masks?
What aspects of you do you not want to have seen and why?
What excites and ignites your soul?
What are your true heart’s desires and needs?