Monday, January 16, 2017

Dropping the Mask

What are you like?

No, no, what are you like? What makes you vulnerably human and more real than any character in any book ever could be?
How much of it do you hide?

A while back I wrote a prose blip on character masks: the things that characters pretend are their real selves but in reality are just facades. Characters are fakers, sometimes. Writers use that as powerful tools for symbolism and emotion. But… where did we learn this from? We certainly didn’t invent this technique.
We observed it.

We observed it in those around us, and in ourselves.
See, there’s this interesting thing about people: we hide our vulnerably human features behind masks. Whether we realize it or not, we hide behind more masks than any character ever has.

Masks and Lies

Sometimes, we wear masks for protection. When we drop our masks we feel vulnerable and weak. We wear masks to keep from getting hurt. I know people who put on an outward appearance of joy and extroverted excitement when in reality they’re pushing away heartache and anxiety with all their might.
These sorts of masks are very real, and very strong. When someone lets down this sort of mask to you, they’re opening up their heart and saying “here, I trust that you won’t cut this into tiny pieces”. It’s an amazing feeling.

This feeling of vulnerability goes both ways. Dropping your own mask to someone creates this immediate sense of weakness and fear, but when the other person treats it with care, you find relief and joy and a peace you never thought you’d feel.

Two week ago, at the writer’s conference/retreat, I was able to drop my masks. Not all of them, but many of them. I had found my own people, and they had found theirs. It was a chance to trust and be real.
Never have I been so thankful.

However, there’s another type of mask we wear. It’s not one of protection from pain, it’s protection from guilt.
These masks aren’t just facades. They’re lies.
I know the immediate reaction is to get defensive, to create yet another mask: to deny having any kind of mask like this.
But you do.
I do.
All of us, every single one of us, as a mask like this. We might not even know we have it, because we’re wearing it even to ourselves. We lie to others, and to ourselves, to hide from the gnawing of guilt.

Dropping Our Masks

It’s now the third Monday of January. By now, all of our New Year’s resolutions are coming to an end and we’re regretting have made a few of them and have completely forgotten that we made the rest. That’s okay, that’s what happens all the time to all of us anyway.
But… what if we made a new one?
A new resolution, that has no tie to the cliché New Year’s type, the kind that die out.
What if we keep this one?

What if we dropped our masks?

Not necessarily the masks of protection (although I highly recommend it for that feeling of peace and security), the masks of lies.
Let’s drop them together. Our masks that “protect” us from guilt.
These masks don’t protect us from anything. They tempt us with promises of protection, but all they do is push it off, save it for later. Guilt doesn’t fade the longer it’s ignored. It grows.

So let’s drop the masks.
Let’s make peace with our guilt.
And then….

Let’s move on. Let’s let go of those masks and those guilts and keep pressing forward.


  1. Hmm. So if I am an extremely introverted person naturally, but act silly and extroverted, and talk to people I don't know in efforts to be engaging and make them feel welcome; would you argue I should abandon that habit, since it isn't my natural response to being in a social situation? You could certainly argue that being extroverted is a mask to hide from the vulnerability of being quiet and thoughtful, but is that a problem?

    1. Actually, no.
      It's still a good thing to be extroverted and make efforts to engage people. That's an admirable thing.
      However, I'd also suggest making an effort to let the real you show to people you can trust. That vulnerability can result in a lot of peace for you, when people respond in kind.

    2. *nods* That makes sense. Thanks!

    3. Of course! Thanks for your comment. ^_^