How many times have you pretended to have it all together when really you were falling apart? Can you count the number of times you actually changed something about yourself to fit in? When was the last time you were actually 100% yourself?
These are some questions that every person has dealt with as it pertains to the “masks” we wear daily. I’m not talking about those beat makeup looks, nor those great masks we wear to improve our skin’s glow (although those are great!). No, I’m talking about those invisible shields that we put on to block or hide who we are and what we are feeling. I’ve actually worn many masks to hide most of my weaknesses and fears. Although most would believe that keeping a good and strong “face” is the best protective barrier, it is not. In reality, it can be the most damaging thing to do in the long run, and I figured this out this past May, on the day I graduated college.
Despite being a bit under the weather, something was truly bothering me on what was supposed to be one of the most important and proudest moments in my life: my college graduation. However, I felt awful and it wasn’t just my sore throat and stuffy nose. I felt horrible because I had worn the mask of disappointment and fear for years. I was scared of what was next for me and my future after college. On top of that, I had realized my disappointment in my support system. I felt alone and a little overwhelmed.
Being that I am a first generation college graduate, the oldest of three children, and coming from a low-income home, there wasn’t really anyone who I could relate to when it came to my journey throughout college. I rarely discussed my accomplishments and awards, programs I was involved in, or the everyday issues of a college woman. I just felt alone. However, I always kept a strong demeanor, and everyone always looked at me as the “golden child.” When it came time for me to walk across that stage, those feelings of fear and disappointment consumed me. It was time to take off the masks; it was time to face my feelings head on.
I’m not going to lie, it’s pretty tough to not hide when you’re afraid and/or hurting. You want to be strong and to be looked at as someone who has her/himself together. But the best route is to understand why you’re hiding and from whom. The masks we wear are really just a front and eventually they will have to come off. Actually, I’m still in the process of unleashing the feelings that I have kept covered, but I challenge you to join me in taking the steps to breaking through your own masks:
Understanding and being aware that you are hiding is the first step. It is the step that you declare yourself as being afraid, concerned, overwhelmed, disappointed, unconfident, or whatever it is that you’re hiding. Also, recognizing this is realizing that we all are human. Nobody is perfect or even close to it. Being conscious is a great starting point to healing.
Acknowledge the fact that you are hiding and accept is for what it is. Accepting that it’s okay to feel certain things helps with the process of moving on to a solution.
After you have become aware and are accepting your true self and feelings, find a better outlet instead of masking your issues. For instance, take a new fitness class to help put your mind as ease. Also, reading and journaling are great outlets to changing the “hide and seek” behavior that occurs when wearing our masks. By acquiring a different outlet, we are gaining a new perspective on ways in which we can deal with our issues and feelings. Therefore, instead of hiding, we put effort into unleashing those feelings towards something that can help us heal.
Basically, the masks we wear are not us. They are a barrier that blocks who we truly are and how we are truly feeling. As I stated before, I’m still figuring it out, but the best thing about growing out of my masks is learning ways to not revert back to hiding my true self. I know it’s quite hard to expose yourself and feelings, but it’s much harder when you have never experienced feeling completely free.
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