Halloween is a time when we disguise ourselves with costumes and masks. It’s a time to have fun being something we aren’t. Hiding behind our masks is a party game! In a relationship, hiding behind our masks is not funny and a sure way to create stress. “I try to be myself when I’m around him/her.” you say. OK, do you speak and act differently around them than you do your other friends? Do you pretend to be confident when you’re really very unsure of yourself? Do you hold back from saying what you want because you’re afraid of their reaction?
If so, then you have a mask you hide behind. Maybe even a pocket full of masks!
You may wear different masks around different people. You may not even be aware of it. One for your parents, one for your partner, one for your friends, and one last one for your co-workers. These masks not only prevent other people from seeing the true you, but they prevent you from having a really great experience with other people.
We want to be authentic and show our true self to other people, and when we don’t, we create stress on ourselves. As our frustration increases with feeling like we can’t be ourselves around someone, our stress increases as well, sometimes to a breaking point which may come out as depression, mental and physical exhaustion or even an addiction.
How do you get rid of the masks and get back to being yourself around people you love?
Get a good look at the mask you want to throw away. Get a feeling about how it does not represent the true you. You will have an awareness like “I always let them make the little choices like where we eat, what movie we watch, etc.” or “I don’t speak up and share my opinion on important matters in the news”.
Be honest with yourself about what the impact is on you wearing that mask. “I never get to eat where I want and sometimes I don’t even want to see the movie they picked!” and “I think I have important things to say about what’s going on in the world!”
Look at your mask and see it for what it is...something that you thought was necessary at one time but is hurting you each time you put it on now.
You have a choice. Each time you wear the mask you lose a little bit of yourself. Some people never take the mask off and forget who they really are. Taking off the mask does have the risk of other people not recognizing you and perhaps distancing themselves from you slightly.
How would you rather live your life?
If you do decide to take off the mask for good, let your true self come out gently and gradually. It may be as much a surprise for you as it is for others around you.
“I don’t really want to eat there this time. I was thinking about _______”
Interrupt a conversation with “I have an opinion I’d like to share on that, ____________”
Let your partner, your friends, your family and your co-workers see the real you. You are more comfortable that way than in any mask.
Hiding behind our masks is a useful technique at times but is no replacement for letting the real you be present with the people you really love!
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