On Halloween, we dress in costume and slip on a mask to assume a persona. So, really, it’s like every other day. As you plan your costume, have you considered who you are behind your mask?
The Masks We Wear
Today is Halloween, a day when we dress in costume and hide behind a mask to assume the persona of someone other than ourselves.
So, really, it’s like every other day.
The only thing that makes Halloween different is that on Halloween we acknowledge what we’re doing. The costumes are more obvious. The masks are clearly visible.
Our Invisible Masks
Most people hide behind masks on a daily basis. It’s built into the fabric of our society.We live in a culture that judges from the outside. The image we project is how people see us.
On Halloween, you might ask someone “who are you?” in the sense of “who are you dressed as?” On another day, you might ask, “what do you do?”
How We Define Ourselves
When I ask people to tell me about themselves—to tell me who they are—most respond by first defining their role: doctor, lawyer, real estate broker, coach, graphic designer, investment banker, marketer, consultant, mother, father, daughter, son, sister, brother, and so on.
We learn to define ourselves through these “role masks” from an early age. We also learn how to change our mask for the situation: to help us fit in, to protect ourselves from rejection, to get the job, to get the guy (or girl), to earn love from a parent or praise from a teacher. Masks can serve us in this way.
Roles, Personas and Archetypes
Masks, roles, personas, and archetypes also help us categorize other people, and ourselves, more easily. Who doesn’t love a good quiz like “which Sex and the City character are you?” We are fascinated with personality assessment profiles.
We use these tools as heuristics to help us anticipate how a person will react to a set of circumstances. For example, marketers advocate using personas to define the needs of a target market. We view it as a shortcut to understanding their thought patterns and emotional responses.
This is an illusion. Archetypes, personas, personality profiles and other such tools at best only create generalizations. They don’t really capture who someone is. Beneath the surface of the person’s “role mask” or archetype is a human being, with a set of unique experiences that shape the person’s beliefs and behaviors. Two people with the same general tendencies often have very different motivations and mindsets.
Who Are You Beneath Your Masks?
The problem arises when we take cover behind our masks for so long that we lose track of who we are underneath. We may wear so many layers of masks that we don’t know who is at the core of our true self.
To really know someone — including our own selves — requires us to look beneath the masks. On both sides of this dynamic, this entails a willingness to be vulnerable. The vulnerability in shedding our own masks is obvious, but don’t discount what it takes to look beneath the surface of another human being. This too, requires vulnerability: a willingness to be available, to be present, to connect intimately.
To be clear, intimacy is not a euphemism for sex. It’s about emotion.
There is fear in going beneath the masks. To look into the depths of another soul requires the fortitude to stay, to look, to see, to notice. And to allow the other person to see into you. When we do this, we put ourselves at risk of rejection; it negates the basic survival instinct, the longing to belong.
So we protect ourselves under the cover of masks that keep us at a safe distance.
Those who are willing to peel off the masks and look beneath the surface are rewarded with the ultimate freedom: the freedom to know who you are, and be who you are. They are rewarded with real connections; the relationships that withstand the tests of time and circumstances.
Run Your Own Tests
If you don’t believe me, ask people to answer “who are you?” without reference to a role they play.
Ask yourself the same question. How do you answer this?
In the context of your business, can you answer “what do you do?” without labeling yourself with a title or the standard description in your industry?
Who are you under the masks? What is it you do beneath the surface?
These are questions worth asking, and they aren’t easy to answer.
What Holds Us Back from Removing the Masks
Many of us avoid these questions for a long time — some people go their entire lives without asking these questions. The discovery process takes time and patience. This is the process of returning to yourself, of returning to your truth.
I’ve seen some brilliant and creative Halloween costumes. Some people really go all out on this holiday, especially in New York City. I often wonder how much time, money and effort they spent planning and considering their costume.
How much did you spend on yours?
How does that compare to the time and effort you’ve spent to discover who you are beneath the masks you wear on a daily basis?
Are you even aware of the masks you wear? Many people aren’t.
To be clear, my intent is not to be a “Halloween Scrooge.” I am not knocking Halloween. I love Halloween. It’s fun to dress up in costome and if you’re going to wear a costume, I say: go all out.
When you post your pictures, tag me so I can witness and acknowledge your creativity. (I’m @reneefishman on every social network).
My invitation to you is that when you remove your costume and mask, you consider asking yourself:
What are the invisible masks I wear each day? And what lies beneath them?
Peeling back the layers may expose some tricks, but if you persist in your efforts, I’m willing to bet that you will find a treat awaiting you.
This process can feel scary to tackle alone. If you’re hesitant to dive in, or you’re not sure where to begin, get in touch. That’s what I’m here for 🙂 .