Updated: Dec 28, 2018
A week or so ago, on a lovely Southern Highlands Spring evening, a group of EWP members enjoyed their usual monthly dinner, in a rather unusual way.
They all wore beautiful, colourful, ornate masks.
They did not wear them the entire evening, but all agreed with American poet Paul Dunbar,
who put it so beautifully in 1896, “We wear the mask that grins and lies, it hides our cheeks
and shades our eyes.”
And let’s face it, men and women have been wearing masks since time immemorial, to
entice, and appeal, to repel and conceal themselves, from others who do likewise.
They have also worn them to protect themselves from angry vengeful gods, to mark and
celebrate events, for religious rituals, theatrical productions, for healing powers, rites of
passage, to mention just a few. But it is the invisible masks we have always chosen to wear
as protection from our fellow travellers, which have proven to be the most effective armour
And they come in numerous guises, like make-up, speech, clothes, actions, and belief
systems, but really, there are only three main categories of masks.
1. The Identity Mask: Who am I today?
2. The Emotional Mask: What emotion do I want to reveal today?
3. The Situational Mask: Where am I today?
Each of us has our own reasons for wearing masks. Sometimes it is fear, or pain, insecurity,
wanting to belong, to fit in, or even just habit. The reasons vary as widely as the chosen disguises, we elect to wear. But mostly, if not always, it is to protect our true self, from real or perceived external dangers. Which when you think about it, is a pretty good reason.
To quote Dunbar again, “Why should the world be over-wise, in counting all our tears and
sighs?” Surely that’s a sound thing for each of us to do. Especially in this age, where too
many, want to know, too much. Unless of course, hiding behind our masks becomes so
habitual our true self, is lost to us. We’ve spent too much time protecting and projecting, and now we do not know who we really are.
We have lost our true identity. Who am I?
Often times we have such an impressive wardrobe of Identity Masks at our disposal, we
forget they are not the real deal. We fall victim to our own illusions. Deaf to the one that
whispers, ‘Oh you’re home at last. I miss you so much when you’re gone.’
Off go the shoes and make-up, but the mask remains. Sometimes, forever, or until our bodies take up the fight for our true identity and rebels against us, in a desperate attempt to gain our attention.
But this need not be the case. Masks can serve us very well, when we wear them in a healthy way. They can be wonderful friends, when used mindfully. But don’t push the friendship, just because you can. Your true identity needs to shine too, and after all, she is your best and truest friend, so remember to nourish her, because as Brene Brown says, “Owning our story and loving ourselves through the process, is the bravest thing, we will ever do.”
Wear your masks wisely.
By Bella Hoyne