Why you Struggle with Feeling Authentic

We wear masks everyday. We may wake up and see our romantic partner, roommate, or family member- and of course, ourselves. As we interact, we may or may not be fully aware that we are wearing a mask. Our mask can work as a protection, and also as an illusion that limits our ability to speak truthfully, show up fully, and connect on a deep level.
 
It’s likely that we show up differently for different people (dad vs wife vs roommate vs best friend vs boss). We often have different attitudes, choice of words, and hold our bodies differently. Depending on the individual we are interacting with, we may be focused on or concerned about different things. Will my girlfriend think I’m weak and want to leave me if cry and tell her my feelings are hurt? I just ran out of breath going up the stairs, no wonder I’m so overweight. Will my roommate be annoyed that I’m complaining about guy problems again? Will my family judge me if I tell them I’m gay?
 
Then we go into work and see our boss and colleagues. Quickly and subconsciously, we throw on another mask on. This is another version of us. This mask shows up differently than the mask we are wearing at home. And this mask often has slightly different motivations and desires.
 
We meet friends after work for dinner or a drink. Yet again, we are wearing another mask.
 
We come home at the end of the day. We are alone and relaxing on the coach. We feel a different mask come on. The mask works with us at a superficial and fear based level: I wish I had more money so I could do exciting things after work. I must keep working so I can get ahead of others and prove that I’m better than them. I hope I get promoted so I can finally be successful. I need a girlfriend to feel okay right now.
 
Why do we wear our masks?
A mask is a form of protection. Ultimately, our masks have the best intention for us. They often want us to feel safe, protected, and in control. They value predictability and consistency.
 
However, masks can work as facades. They work at a superficial level, and are out of alignment with our genuine expressions. Beneath the masks are our raw unfiltered thoughts, emotions, and reactions. The masks work to maintain order and image.
 
Our egos create the masks because they are concerned about image and often remain guarded to protect the desired image. The vulnerability of taking off our mask can feel threatening to the ego.
 
If I take off my mask in this work meeting and raise my hand and share a thought – will I be judged? Will I be wrong and my colleagues think I’m stupid? Will this impact my ability to get a promotion?
 
If I take off the mask in my romantic relationship, will my partner see me for who I really am and want to leave? Will I appear weak and eventually be abandoned? Will my partner think I’m ugly if I take off this mask?
 
I have a new baby and joined a group of ladies with young children. I hear them gossiping and talking about things I don’t really care about. I put on my mask to fit in and be accepted by the group. If I take off this mask, will they judge me and start gossiping about me?
 
It makes total sense that we want to keep these masks on.
 
When are masks harmful?
Masks can become harmful when we become fully identified with them. Masks are harmful when we think they are our actual faces.
 
Masks can take many shapes and forms. We currently live a politically volatile environment, especially in the United States at present. Political figures guard their faces with masks created from fear and separation. The intention of the mask is to provide safety and protection for the individual, and it also works to perpetuates the very thing it’s fearful of: increased fear and separation.
 
Why is it important to take off our masks?
 
Taking off our masks allows us to show up authentically in our lives. Taking off our masks is taking off our false perceptions of self in order to show up as we truly are. There is a deep sense of liberation involved in removing the masks. A type of peace and acceptance that cannot be felt in any other environment. Taking off our masks can feel messy. It’s a process of surrendering to what is, and letting go of all that we want it to be. Its like the unraveling of an extremely tight sweater that has been constricting our movements and expressions for a very long time.
 
We have a mask to protect us from many things: rejection, separation, pain, suffering, judgment, attack, etc. However, the mask ultimately manifests the very things it shields itself from. It feels very counterintuitive: taking off the mask is the key to deep connection, belonging, love, liberation and acceptance.
 

About the Author

Claire Semelka is a Certified Health Coach through Duke Integrative Medicine that supports individuals to mindfully break free from old patterns to live their fullest lives. Claire helps clients gain awareness around limiting beliefs, create healthy lifestyle habits, and tap into their fullest potential.

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