Whats is behind your mask?
Clowns paint masks on their faces to show if they are happy or sad. Many people live their lives wearing a ‘mask’ acting the person they think that the world wants to see a , showing only those things that they think of as acceptable to others. They may have different masks for different people. Perhaps they are strong and aloof in work and loving at home. They project to the world what they would like the world to see.
Shakespeare wrote that all the world is a stage and all the men and women players (upon it). I wonder if he had counselling in mind when we thought of the line. For what we most associate with the stage is acting and actors playing a part. They hide their real identities for the sake of entertainment.
Yet we all know that behind our masks we often we will find fear and confusion. Fear of being judged or fear that our weaknesses are going to be exposed and perhaps even being rejected. Without their shield of our masks we expose the real us and that is going to hurt.
We find ourselves desperate to be understood, yet scared to be genuine enough to let others see who we are. We give them glimpses and hope that they can build the whole picture, get behind the mask and understand us. Yet ultimately it becomes a prison, for we dare not remove the mask for fear of not being understood.
From time to time we have all had the dream of suddenly being naked in front of a crowd of people, perhaps we are making a speech or we are at a family gathering. It taps into our fear of being exposed. We hide behind our masks where we feel safe. But we add layers that show our confidence, an award, a house or a better job. But the façade becomes harder and harder to maintain. We become mentally exhausted with our prison that we may describe as depression and anxiety as we feel alone and ill considered by the world. Perhaps we repress a real part of us for example our sexuality. The cure is to change to show the world our real selves to be genuine. You can’t do some of the things you’d like to for fear of judgement or that it isn’t consistent with the face you present to the world.
So how do we deal with our insecurities how do we get back to our more genuine self? We first need to feel safe as we uncover the layers as we get under the mask and for that reason many people will come to see a qualified counsellor, but if you felt that you have someone in your life with whom you could be completely honest then they would be able to help as well.
A counsellor will work with you to help you think about what you present to the world and how it looks to others, they will help you to see the costs both to your emotional health and to your life. As you come to the realisation that the mask is not who you are or who you want to be seen as they can help with the processes and the fear of making those changes. Ultimately you have a safe space in which you can try out being the authentic you before you put it into action and begin to be seen as the person that you really are.
We can move toward being seen for ourselves without being afraid of our beliefs or afraid of confronting our fears. It’s time to put down the mask, step into a new stage of your life.
Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.
About Graeme Orr
I am an Accredited Member of BACP offering counselling for both individuals and couples on the Southside of Glasgow.
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