“God hath given you one face, and you make yourselves another.” –William Shakespeare
Imagine, for just a moment, a world where no one cared what car you drove, what designer handbag you carried, or what job you worked at.
Can you sense the freedom?
But this isn’t reality, because we do care. And because we care we’ve developed habitual masks to please and impress others.
We all wear masks.
There’s a good chance, too, you change your masks so habitually you don’t even notice doing it. Maybe you’ve done it your entire life.
What mask do you wear?
How do you feel about the face you’re portraying for the world to see? Are you truly yourself? Do you feel that you can be you, no matter what social situation you’re in?
In your mind, gather up everyone you know and put them in a room, friends, family, co-workers, and acquaintances. Everyone is surely cautiously mingling with their masks perfectly placed. But then, imagine a strong wind gust sweeps through the party, blowing all masks off. It’s mayhem, faces are exposed, for maybe the first time, wrinkles and all.
Now imagine that instead of using this vulnerability against one another you patted each other on the back, encouraged uniqueness and supported one another.
Why are we so afraid to be authentic?
Even when our masks irritate our skin, and we can’t relax or be ourselves, we still resist change.
This epic performance is a huge drain on our minds, bodies and souls. It’s a hard act to constantly pretend to be, or feel like you need to be, someone else. Similarly, it’s very draining to regularly act like you feel one way when you really feel another.
There have been 3 masks that I have seen in my life and the one I want to see more. There are more, and you will have different ones, but in my honesty, these are the ones I wear most often.
1) The “Positive” Persona
We are all performing, all of the time. We pretend we have it all together, that everything is perfect.
I can be such a fraud, my life is far from perfect, far from the rosy pictures I’ve posted. Knowing this causes my self-esteem to come shattering around me, because I begin to feel as though my life should be perfect by now, after all everyone else’s is.
2)The “Strength” Persona
I’m amazed at how many people pretend to be strong even when everything is falling apart inside. Coping with everything life throws is tough. From the outside, others seem to be holding it all together. Just like you. Just like me.
3)The “Intellectual” Persona
It’s pretty tempting to strut your own stuff. The problem is, it’s obnoxious.
We all want to feel special. Maybe teachers and parents praised you for being the “smart” kid in school, this praise felt great, and so you want to keep it coming. There will always be a “smarter” Albert Einstein lurking in the shadows, ready to expand on your quantum physics discovery.
When we throw that mask away and no longer put so much emphasis on being “special,” we can taste freedom, we can just be whoever we actually are.
So what do we do?
The mask that I have been working on, is that of transparency.
Showing who I really am, my flaws and failures, being honest in my endeavors. Being human. Most of us can tell when we’re in the presence of an authentic human being, one who isn’t “putting on a show,” they are just true to their humanness. This comfort is felt because in their presence we can sense our own authenticity and we sense the deep peace this authenticity brings.
This quest was spurred on by the apostle Paul, who was completely honest in his letters. Telling his audience of his struggles but also how faithful God is.
“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners--of whom I am the worst. (1 Timothy 1:15)
“Transparency is not a weakness, it’s a great strength. Masks are a sign of weakness. When you stay true to transparency you align with life’s stream and therefore will be privy to an influx of well-being and love.” –Tina Williamson
We don’t have to be perfect because there was only One that was. Our honesty and transparency shows the power of the cross all the more.
*photo by Emily Watson