Many of us wear masks. We act a certain way with our parents, another way with our friends, and even alter who we are with our boss and coworkers.
In some cases this may be appropriate (I wouldn’t want my brother to speak the way he does in the locker room to my 4 year old niece). However, more often then not we suppress who we really are for fear of being misunderstood, rejected or even worse unloved.
I had the amazing opportunity to come face to face with the masks I wear on a regular basis. I will be honest, up until a few days ago I had an arrogant belief that I was transformed and enlightened enough to see where I wear masks and believed that most of the major ones were ‘handled’.
I knew that around my parents I swear a little less, I am clear that around my brother I talk less about spirituality and with various friends the conversation alters such that it coincides with their world- view. I am never lying about what I say just altering it so that it fits.
But recently I was able to see full-fledged how I walk around with a world of hidden masks. Masks that are hidden even from myself.
I have prided myself on being a straight shooter and a truth seeker. I walk around in the belief that I am able to represent what I want in a way that is honest and authentic.
Recently I got my ass handed to me as found myself planning out the slow dissolution of my friendship with a close girlfriend of mine. You see I am a catastrophizer, I consistently think about and plan for the worse case scenario. If I get into a fight with my husband I am already seeing how this will be a fight we continuously have forever. If I miss out on a business opportunity I go straight to how I will probably have to work at the mall.
The most current example was when I felt that my girlfriend had misunderstood and hurt my feelings. Instead of speaking up about it and letting her know how I feel or what I really needed, I instead stayed quiet, bit my tongue and waited for the upset to pass.
Days went by and it showed no signs of disappearing and instead began to grow. I watched as I looked out into the future and saw how I would slowly start to plan my slow withdrawal from her. I would start with speaking less often and being ‘too busy’ to talk.
She would plan events or want to hang out and I would conveniently always have a full schedule and when she did reach out or call I would avoid it all together or wait until “later” to respond. I had it all planned out.
I watched as I could see on the horizon how our deep connections would turn into friendly hello’s and socially acceptable acknowledgements. Within a matter of 3 days I could already envision that by Christmas we would no longer be speaking and that one day we would wonder what happened to ‘us’.
She would be left confused and uncertain as to why it all disappeared and I will have forgotten what the issue was in the first place and probably chock it all up to ‘drifting apart’.
This was a very predictable course of events and for all intensive purposes was a very likely outcome. Heaven knows it has happened to me, and with me, before.
But I figured that if I was going to a lose a great friend I would rather it be because I was honest and shared my heart then letting a misunderstanding or lack of communication get in the way.
As terrified as I was to speak up and share my feelings I did it anyways. I told her I loved her and asked if I could share honestly with her some things that were on my chest. I told her I was afraid to hurt her feelings and that it was because of my commitment to her and us that inspired me to discuss the distancee I felt. I spoke freely about my upset and feelings of irritation. I talked about the things that hurt me, offended me and had me feel unloved.
Afraid of her getting angry I kept talking out of nervousness and worry, we spoke for close to 2 hours.
To date it has been one of the hardest conversations I have ever had.
And then something amazing happened.
She heard me.
She listened to everything I said, took it in and gave it thought.
She let me say what I needed to express and shared where she was with it all and what she was dealing with. Some of the things were simply based on a lack of communication and misunderstandings and others were based on new insights and clarified blindspots.
But she heard me. Every coil, lump and hardness I had in my heart melted away and I was left with so much gratitude and love for her and pride for myself.
I hated feeling resent for her, and being able to have us both speak from our hearts felt like I had conquered something great. My heart felt whole again and I was retuned to a more authentic, humbled and grateful me.
And though this was a hard conversation to have and I thought she would never talk to me again, she actually thanked me.
In the end she was grateful to me for being willing to tell her these things and share with her my pain.
I could say that this was entirely based on her being an extraordinary woman and that is indeed true.
However the biggest thing I could see as the lesson here was that when I was willing to remove my mask, she was willing to remove hers. We both could sense something was off, but neither of us was willing to speak it.
We could have easily let it lay by the wayside and have it be the wedge that came between two friends, but instead we used it as a force to bring us closer. We used our upset to create deeper intimacy.
As I reflect back on the sequence of events I can’t help but think about how many relationships and lovers have dissolved or been tossed away because neither of us were willing to put down our facades and show who we really are.
How many times have I thrown someone away because I was too scared to speak up and share my heart? How many faces, names and people have I slowly erased out of my life?
Though I am uncertain of the numbers, I know there are many and I can only hope that through this lesson I can save some future faces from having the same fate.
For now I am grateful that I was brave enough and lucky enough to save one. My wish is that I continue to save more and that perhaps my words and my story may inspire you to see where you could be throwing away a great relationship all because of what you were unwilling to say or share.
If the relationship is headed for the dustbin-of-life anyways, I encourage you to at least let it be because you spoke your truth instead of listening to the made up story of it all.
That if it has to die, that it at least has an honorable death.
There will be some relationships in your life where it will be healthy and necessary to let go, but there are others that are gems that if you just pick up and polish can shine more brilliantly then ever.
I am learning to let go of the various masks, and as I take off one, it only shows me the next new layer of masks underneath.
The poem at the start of this article perfectly encapsulates what I am talking about here.
I would hate to know we missed out on each other, or that you missed out on the people in your life simply because you kept hiding your true self.
And so I wanted to show you my blue skin first.
I’ve been searching my whole life for the other people like me and I know you have too.
The only way you find them is by being willing to take your mask off first.
You don’t have to do it alone, we can even do it together if you like. We can take our masks off at the same time and that way we’ll know we won’t pass each other by.