This week has been a very interesting and eye-opening one for me. It’s allowed me to see a mask I’ve always worn and the impact it has had on my life.
As part of a class, we are doing interviews of people in our various communities. The point is to understand who we are being with people. We are meant to see how we are listened to based on that way of being. Ultimately, the result is meant to give us access to our self-expression. Before I share the result with you, I want to share with you how I felt before the exercise.
When I put the mask on
When I was little there are two times when something big was happening in my personal life and it made me feel that I stood out. In both experiences, I faced a lot of questions and curiosity. In those moments it felt like we were different, that there was something wrong with our life. As a result, I began to only talk about the good stuff, I would share anything that provided a positive look at my life. This felt safe, comfortable and left me free of that curiosity and questioning I had previously felt.
It also left me feeling like an outsider, like the odd person out. I often don’t know the right thing to say, definitely did not know what to share. Most of all, I was worried about what others thought of me and making a good first impression.
What I can see now is that people were curious because they cared. Before I saw people seeing me as there being something wrong, when in fact it was actually just their love and wanting to understand what was happening for me. To see how I was doing and if I needed anything. And of course, that required curiosity!
Pulling back the curtain
This way of being stuck with me. It has always felt safe, left me feeling strong and able to handle anything. I often hear people comment on how I will know what to do and that I have it all together. For years I saw this as a good thing and in some ways it is. I became someone who is reliable, can help or find you help when you need it. I became caring, well rounded, resourceful and strong.
But here is what you don’t see. What I have hidden from you for so long! I struggle! Daily!
This way of being has me not ask for help, even when I am drowning in needing it. It has left me feeling that people don’t really know me. Sure I’ll share my experiences, but only after I have survived struggle. Of course, I will spend time with you and we will have lots to talk about. But mostly, I will focus on you and what is happening in your life and then somehow have some way to help. I will wow you with my experience, I will know exactly what to do or who to call. I really do want to help, that has always been authentically who I am.
And, here’s what I don’t say…
- I’m also struggling and I just want to have a good cry over a glass of wine together
- I really know what it feels like to be hurting, and I just want to stop you and me from feeling it
- I’m scared of what it would look like, to be honest, and just be me as I am no matter what
Taking off the mask
I have always felt like I’m wearing one of those plastic Halloween masks when we were kids. The ones that made it hard to breathe, that always had sharp edges, pulled on your hair and felt stuck on.
What’s funny is that while I’ve been wearing this “I’ve got it together” mask is that the people closest to me just wanted me to know I can take it off. They saw me as someone who always cares, who always helps. And they saw that for me keeping on the mask on is my biggest struggle! They saw that when I did give them a glimpse of it off it is when they feel the most connected to me. Where they found a raw emotion forward relatable loving person.
This experience has allowed me to see how wearing this mask has prevented me from being seen. How it has prevented me from being real with people in my life. So this is me… officially taking the mask off!