I think about my marriage with Adam and realize that the mask I wore protected me from truly connecting in relationships and, at the same time, neglected who I truly am—an art piece ready to be created from a blank canvas. I know that we wear different masks for different people, different scenarios, but why? Who teaches us this and why are we taught to wear these masks?
What masks did I wear? Who am I underneath the masks? I always believed that what defines me are the actions I take in life. When all is said and done, I am what I did in life while wearing various masks. Is it possible to wear masks, know yourself, and be defined by actions?
Adam gave me the space to do what I wanted to do, to some extent. I occasionally went out with my friends, including our annual weekend getaway to Las Vegas. I planned gatherings for friends; we enjoyed entertaining. I enrolled in self-help workshops that helped me understand what I thought I wanted in life. The verdict is yet to be determined. I see that now.
Unfortunately, when I wanted to start my own public relations company, Adam didn’t want me too. We had agreed that once he finished his residency and became employed, I would quit my job and start my business. This was a broken promise and the beginning of my discontent. So I put on a different mask, one that displayed contentment yet underneath was resentment, resentment for the years that I supported him through medical school and in return, did not get his support for my dream.
Today, I ask myself what mask do I wear? What would I look like without a mask? And if I am a blank canvas, what will my canvas look like in a year? What art piece will I create? I think it’s exciting…the possibilities are endless.
Guiding Lesson: Eve, so as you reflect on your marriage, have you come up with any answers? Is it possible to wear your masks, know yourself and be defined by your actions? These are some really great questions. Let’s take a look and see if we can answer this.
Well, as we look back there were many masks you attempted to put on during your marriage. Some were to help you identify with society, your friends, your family, your community, etc. These were masks that on the surface appeared to be positive. In fact, no one would ever think of asking you to take anyone of them off. You know why? It is because it served them, not you.
For example, the mask of the supportive wife was great for your husband. Because of this, he was able to go out and find himself at his own speed. There were no deadlines or anyone who would question him because you were supportive. What about the multi-tasker mask? This one got your head spinning, but again all those around you reaped the benefits. They knew that if they needed anything, YOU would be the right person to take care of it all. Your family and your friends loved hearing you say “yes, of course
I can do it.” And, of course, the masks that reflected positive emotions of contentment, warmth, love, etc. made people feel good while you were dying inside and trying to cry out for help. However, no one could hear because you were buried so deep that you, yourself, forgot you were hurting.
So I go back to the question, “Is it possible to wear your masks, know yourself and be defined by your actions?” The answer is that others around you would have defined you by your actions whether you were wearing your mask or not. The real question is, would you have acted in the same manner or a different one if you were not wearing one of your many masks? After wearing so many, was your true identity even recognizable? Those masks did have a tendency to help you forget yourself, your emotions and your needs for the sake of keeping it together and not becoming vulnerable in public. How would others have reacted if you were really YOU? They would have had to actually be held accountable, be present to your needs, allow you to voice your emotions and join in a mutual relationship that required courageous, honest conversations.
Eve, to know yourself, you need to continue to take off the masks and learn to be comfortable in your own skin. Others will need to get comfortable with the real you. Be prepared. They will not like it. Your actions will change because the real you will finally see clearly since there is no mask skewing your vision. Yes, it is exciting, Eve, that you get to find, uncover and create the real you. This is not a one-time exercise. It will take you your whole life. Getting started now is a good idea. Stay curious because you are more than you ever imagined yourself to be. Let’s discover together.