Dr. Deb's Mental Health Vitamin: Take off your mask

Dr. Deb Wade

Dr. Deb Wade
GCU Vice President, Counseling and Psychological Services

Halloween is just around the corner! Do you decorate your home with ghosts, goblins, witches and jack-o-lanterns? Do you relish the idea of finding the perfect costume and then sit in anticipation as the holiday party approaches so that you can show up and steal the prize? Do you buy costumes for your pets? Does your costume include a mask, specifically dedicated to the effect you’re trying to accomplish?

The fact is, many people go into overdrive in their commitment to and enjoyment of Halloween. But what about those who wear masks throughout the year?

In my opinion, we ALL wear masks … we are one person at home, another while at the workplace, another while around our community and friends.

We aren’t born with masks; WE put them, which means WE can take them off! Yet why are we so afraid of being authentic? The “performance” we put on, when we put on our masks, can be completely draining! We are trying to pretend, to be more than or less than someone else, to be what or who we think the world expects of us … whew! Exhausting!

Why the masks? Consider:

  • A mask protects us from vulnerability. “If I’m vulnerable and real, I may be rejected, and that would really hurt.”
  • A mask shows the world how strong I am. “Even if I’m falling apart inside, I must not let anyone else see it, lest I be rejected.”
  • A mask allows me to be liked by everyone. “If I can make everyone else feel good about themselves, it doesn’t matter that the cost to me is so high.”
  • A mask allows me to appear to be in charge. “If I’ve been hurt in the past, I can be assertive and even aggressive, hopeful that no one will see that I am lonely, scared and fearful.”
  • A mask allows me to hide behind social media and present my life as rich and full. “If I don’t portray happy … smiling … happy … smiling, they may find out that I’m really emotionally empty, sad and suffering terribly.”
  • A mask allows me to hide my flaws. “If I am stripped down naked, the world will see that I’m actually not pretty/handsome at all.”

What would it be like if we left the masks solely for Halloween? If we were able to store them away and be real, authentic, vulnerable and honest?

Poet E.E. Cummings once wrote, “One of the greatest battles we face as human beings is the battle to protect our true selves from the self the world wants us to become.”

Think about the masks you wear and commit to taking them off! Then don’t let the world scare you into putting them back on! Hold out your tremendous gifts, beauty, talents to the world without apology, without shame and without regret.

How freeing that will be! After all, Oscar the Grouch (from Sesame Street fame) didn’t want to spend his entire life grumbling in a garbage can … and I would assume that you don’t, either! So take off the mask, jump out of the can, stretch your legs and experience true and honest authenticity!

Those masks? Pack them away with all the other Halloween decorations and store them in your attic, closet or shed. And next year around Halloween, don’t forget to get that treasured mask to complete your costume. Just remember to put it away when the season ends!

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Bible Verse

As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead. (James 2:26)

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