Monday, March 4, 2013

What mask do you wear?

At my my recent YaYa friends' gathering, one woman asked each of us what mask we wore and whether we had an image or book/movie character with which we identified. What a great question to explore!

I have given a lot of thought to my protective mask these past two decades. Years ago I learned that everyone puts on an intentional face to others. It's a protective device, a way we develop to survive. Generally, we don't feel safe being completely open and transparent with everyone. Sometimes we don't feel safe with anyone. And anyway, we can't go around letting it all hang out all the time, can we? But we can find people to trust, and we can invite transformation to become who we really are.

Masks aren't necessarily bad. They serve an important purpose. However, when the mask we wear is so thick that we don't even know who we really are, that's a problem. When the mask hurts us (or others) somehow, it's time to make a choice about how much and with whom we use it.

My mask is that of a strong, tough woman—Wonder Woman. I learned to be extremely responsible when I was young. And when I went through a divorce and suddenly found myself out on my own with no job and little money, I really did have to be strong and tough. I spent many decades working inside the institutional church with all its patriarchal and hierarchical structures. Again, I had to be extremely tough. I couldn't fold up every time someone spoke harshly to me or every time I faced injustice as a woman. I couldn't burst into tears over each situation I faced. I toughened up even more.

I know that's my mask, and I'm working hard to be open about my vulnerability—at least with those with whom I feel safe and comfortable. I'm trying to drop the mask and be OK with not knowing everything and not being able to solve every problem.

What mask do you hide behind? Are you getting tired of it and wanting to take it off at least part of the time? I'd love to hear your experience of masks if you're willing to start a conversation in the Comment box below.


  1. I think my mask is that of a joker. It seems that humor has the potential to deflect conflict, put someone I've just met at ease, and/or mask some pain from earlier wounds. As the youngest of my siblings, I perhaps would have to admit that it may well be a way of getting attention, too.

  2. Thank you for your honesty and great insights. Once we can identify our masks and know why we use the ones we do, we have more control and can make choices.

    In the last couple days a woman I know talked about why she used sarcasm occasionally—and it made me realize that's a mask I sometimes wear, too, to avoid showing my vulnerability and pain. Oh, my, the layers we can put on—almost like makeup!

    Anyone else willing to share with us?