With Halloween around the corner, there was no shortage of topics for this week. I could have written to you about choosing love over fear, grabbing courage by the horns, or dealing with things that go bump in the night. Those are all important topics, especially when you consider that there are times when just the awareness of our fears can act like the waving of a magic wand, providing illumination for the path away from being afraid and toward greater courage.
Then, I realized there was another topic that deserved discussion as we approach the week of Halloween: masks.
Because, darling, every day, everywhere, we hide our true selves with masks and disguises as if Halloween was a constant event, rather than a single day.
The woman next door puts on a mask of perfection, pretending that she loves her in-laws, that volunteering for the PTA is the most important part of her life, and that she and her husband have the perfect marriage.
All over Facebook, we see our friends from high school cloaking themselves in disguises implying that they live perfect lives full of satisfaction and success, with nary a problem to cause a bump in their roads.
And we ourselves pretend that we’ve got it all together.
That we’ve crossed the finish line in the race to “Being There”. We wear the mask of serenity to hide a heart full of pain, wear the shoes of the roles we’re meant to be filling, and disguise our need for the approval of others. Daily, we put on the masks of “should,” “must,” and “have to,” instead of showing our true faces and revealing our deepest desires.
And, darling, I get it.
We create masks to cover our pain. We wear smiley-faced masks when everything in our lives is crashing down around us. We are afraid to remove the mask because we don’t want to be (or appear) vulnerable. We don’t want to admit that we’re actually NOT okay, and that we need some help.
We create masks to hide our fears. The fear of failure. The fear of not fitting in. The fear that we don’t measure up. To remove these kinds of masks would mean to admit that we’re weak or lonely or imperfect.
Other masks cloak our shame. These masks give the illusion of self-confidence, even when we really feel worthless, or announce our pride in material possessions, even when our lives are less than satisfying.
Masks act as distractions to keep outsiders from seeing our flaws, while we direct their attention – and our own – to the aspects of ourselves that we like, or make us feel worthy. They pull people’s attention away from our true selves, from our humanity.
And, darling, I understand why we don masks and cloak ourselves in disguises.
Let’s be frank. I love my life. I live with big heaps of gratitude and love in my life. I wake with a zest to embrace the day. But, darling, I sometimes, just like you, I struggle to hold it all together.
I’d be remiss if I were to pretend that my life and relationships were perfect. And I’d be lying if I were to tell you that I never slipped on a mask or cloaked myself in a disguise for a moment.
What I’ve learned, however, is that life is better when I take off my masks and lay aside my disguises.
Because, baby, trying to be perfect is nothing short of exhausting.
Of course, I could choose to keep my masks and disguises in place and pretend to always be Zen. I could pretend that every day, I meditate, work in my morning word, and plan perfect meals. But pretending to be someone other than I am doesn’t serve me – or you.
When life gets tough, do I float around with my “happy” mask on? Absolutely! But here’s the deal: I give myself permission to feel my negative feelings. Then I close my eyes, take a deep breath, and think of something I’m grateful for.
So, darling, this is what I’ve learned.
When you release yourself from the layers and years of numbing, and begin to discover what your heart and soul are crying for, you will begin to feel alive. The passions that begin to blossom in your heart will also begin to burn away the fears. Loving yourself, and accepting yourself as you are in the moment, will push away the moments of loathing.
And you can’t do these things – and fall in love with your life – if you live as if every moment as if it were Halloween.
Shedding your disguises, putting your masks aside, and letting go of perfection will allow you to feel as if you can breathe.
Darling, take off your mask and lay your disguises aside. Write yourself a permission slip to simply be you. Lean into being comfortable in your own skin. Listen to the small quiet voice of your heart to discover the answers you need to live a life your love. Stop trying to make everyone else happy.
Take a little courage and admit that you aren’t perfect, because, darling, that’s ok.
Darling, save the masks and disguises for Halloween.
Be proud that you are stepping into who you are inside. I guarantee that people will like you better when you drop the façade. And better yet? YOU will not only like yourself – but love yourself.
What about YOU? What masks and disguises can you set aside?