Several years ago I took a graduate course in organizational communication. One of our early assignments involved giving a presentation to the class, and my day came much too quickly. I had taught an undergraduate speech class at the university the semester before, so I felt extra pressure to perform well on top of the normal giving-a-speech jitters.
My professor knew I’d been nervous (to say the least!), so she was kind when I approached her after class. I asked her if I’d done okay, and she paused.
(Never a good sign, right?)
She said, “It was the most fascinating thing, watching you give your presentation.”
“Okay . . .” (Let’s face it. “Fascinating” could really go either way.)
“It was like you were wearing a mask,” she went on to explain. “But every once in a while, you’d trip up and that mask would begin to slip. You floundered around a bit and then, Whoosh! Up went the mask. I’ve never seen anything like it!“
I wish I could say the same. But I’ve seen that mask – on myself and on others – many times before.
You know what I’m talking about, right? That mask we put on whenever we feel the need to look confident, calm, happy, better?
I wear a mask to church almost every Sunday. After a morning fraught with arguments over outfits and frustrations over breakfast, we swerve into the parking lot, snapping at each other and even the other drivers vying for the closest spots. Then, as we grab Bibles and purses and jackets, we step out of our car and walk toward the doors – and the greeters.
“Hi, welcome to church! How are you today?”
“Oh, we’re great! Just great. How are you?”
I could only be less genuine if I threw in a “God bless you” for good measure.
But church isn’t the only place I wear a mask. I remember putting in notice at one job after only being there for a few months. Feeling relieved to be putting a terrible fit behind me, I was honest when my boss asked, “Were you that unhappy?”
“Oh yeah,” I chirped. “I’ve been miserable!”
She’d had no idea, and I left that meeting still thrilled to be moving on, but strangely unsettled at the realization that I was a really good faker.
And then there’s the mask I wear when talking about my new life as a stay-at-home mom. Since leaving my job six months ago, it seems like everyone wants to know how I’m liking this change. Afraid to admit the truth – that it’s hard, that it’s lonely, that I’m a tad bit bored – I almost always smile and say lightly, “Well, I’m still adjusting, but it’s good. It’s good! My daughter just loves having me to herself!”
My emotions are never far from the surface, and very few who know me have not seen me cry. Yet, even though I’m not afraid to show my feelings and I pride myself on my honesty, I hide behind a mask quite often.
Certainly, some circumstances call for professionalism, confidence or an even temper. But wearing a mask all the time can be harmful, preventing us from developing genuine relationships and denying those around us the opportunity to encourage – or be encouraged by – us. It can also be exhausting, maintaining a facade of everything’s-okay and I’m-fine-how-are-you.
Do you hide behind a mask? I’m so thankful that even when my mask is fastened on the tightest, held on by ribbons of fear and insecurity and doubt, God still sees the real me.
You have searched me, LORD, and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue you, LORD, know it completely.
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
Psalm 139: 1-4, 13
What mask are you hiding behind?
By Mary @ Giving Up on PerfectLeave a Comment
Amy Hunt says
oh, Mary…you got me! This is something I fall into time and time again (often on a daily basis!)…yikes! And yes, it’s so very exhausting! I am thankful that my Father doesn’t see the mask when He sees me, and each day He helps me to lay it down in some small way as He shows me His pure love for me and He accepts me just as I am. (are you finding that writing helps you take off the mask? I sure am! It’s to honor Him and for my own freedom first…such grace!) What a great – important – post you wrote!
Rich blessings as you trust Him…
Lisa H says
Are you sure you were not writing about me?! I thought I was the queen of masks and hiding the real feelings. I’ve done it my whole life, first at home with my mom because as a child I wasn’t allowed an opinion or feelings on a matter. Then college and 20’s I hid behind a mask of a wild and crazy lifestyle to hide the hurt and pain. When I was married in my 30’s the same mask went on to hide my feelings again from my husband and everyone who knew us. I wasn’t happy and it wasn’t a healthy marriage from the beginning. After I left him and took our children 1500 miles away to come ‘home’, I still wore that mask for another couple of years. God knew I needed to come out from behind the mask, I needed to find him instead of hiding in the 3 row pew alone and not talking to anyone. I did this for 2 years! He sent a wonderful woman into my life to talk to me, took the time to ask about me, got to know me. The real me. My mask came off for her but no one else for a long time. It felt so much better knowing my ‘secret’ was out and she didn’t stop talking to me, she told me ‘nothing is too big that God can’t help you’. Slowly over time my mask has been left at home more and more. I am letting people get to know the real me. I’ve learned they don’t need the details of my life painted before them because the only person it matters to is God, and he has forgiven me. So I let people in a little at a time and they get to know me a little at a time as I peel away the mask. Its hard but its worth it to know I have friends who care about what is behind the mask!
Lisa, our stories are so similar ~ thank you for your reply as it made this post even more personal for me. I’m in my second year post divorce, having come “home” and making a new “brave” life for my son and I. Still in that lonely place, but I feel God pushing me to start peeling! Thanks again.
Lisa H says
If you’d like to chat that would be great! Most of my friends are married x 20+ years and none of them really understand where I am coming from but try very hard. Feel free to email me at email@example.com
I didn’t think I’d been wearing a mask but I guess I was fooling everyone anyway! The transition from 3 kids to 4 kids has been extremely difficult for me and I have talked about it with many but there words to me have been, “You are amazing! You do more than anyone I know! You make it look so easy!” I hear them and I cringe – i don’t feel like I am any of those things – I feel exhausted, tired and lonely.
Sometimes I think that because we are all wearing masks we are afraid to actually hear and understand what people are actually going through – their not so pretty struggles, the doubts and fear – the failures. Sometimes it feels like as Christians we are told that we are not allowed to feel those sort of things – that it is a lack of faith. I don’t feel that way – I think God puts those feelings and struggles in our lives to teach – not only us, but those who need to learn how to encourage and love as well. An exercise in faith – just like we exercise to keep our bodies strong and healthy, these are exercises to build our faith and relationships.
When I had just 3 kids, I think I was prideful – the kind of mom that annoys people – being put together, no stress, it was easy for me – it was a gorgeous mask I was wearing! It probably had diamonds and lots of other bling!- – Leave it to my Teacher to give me a new perspective on perseverance and relying only on Him to make it through what has been a struggle to adjust to 4 kids.
So true! I hadn’t thought of it as a mask but that is a perfect description. I have always thought I should have gone into acting – I must be an amazing actor since so many people think I’m so many things that I don’t think I am. God knows me – thanks for that reminder today. I’m going to read this post again. 🙂
I had a mask on for most of my life. Perfect Mom, Sister, Daughter, Friend, Spouse. Falling apart inside; body riddled with pressures, stress; tension; exhaustion.
Enter Jesus – who gradually peeled away the layers, exposing the real me. I made an acronym for REAL – Release Everything to God and Live. What a difference in the past 10 years. A freedom I never knew – to be myself, trust God, live for Him alone.
It is wonderful you see the MASK now (when you are young) and are letting Him peel back the layers. Jesus tells us to “take no thought for your life”. YIKES – that is hard to understand, isn’t it? It is the things of this world that make us put on falseness. Oswald Chambers says that the great word of Jesus to His disciples is ABANDON.
Praying for your freedom in Him.
Love that you can be transparent before Him and before us. You are not alone. God is here. I love the Scripture you chose. It is one of my favourites. Thanks for writing this post.
Praying for you,
I love the transparency you are displaying here! I am a recovering mask wearer. I often fall back into mask wearing and “everything is ok” to those around me. I have been peeling the mask off more and more the last several years. What amazes me is the love I receive from some. Then others want me to put the mask back on because it makes me uncomfortable.
Beth Williams says
I wear a big mask at work, in a job I don’t like anymore. My problem is I’m to emotional and sometimes my emotions ome out and the mask is revealed.
I want to be open and honest all the time & not wear a mask for any reason. We need to be upfront with others.
Very close to where my heart has been lately.
I use to be a very good mask wearer, but as I’ve gotten older, and more confident about who I am in Christ, I find that masks are more uncomfortable and awkward!
Only Christ can set us free from those masks! Great post.
Missy June says
Oh the mask used to be my best friend…or so I thought. I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how liberating it is to let the real me hang out. And so thrilled to see others let their masks down, too! One person can be the catalyst and we need to have more “Real Life” stories among the redeemed. It’s the only way HIS glory is truly expressed!
Amy McCollister says
I absolutely Love this post. Growing up in family that was hit by almost every trail imaginable, I learned at a very early age how to put on masks AND how to make others and myself believe that we were a-okay. It wasn’t until Natalie Grant’s song “The Real Me” came out that it struck me that it didn’t matter who everyone thought I was, it only mattered what God thinks of me, and since he knows the real me, my mask really does nothing but hinder myself from having authentic relationships. I’ve found in the past two years, as I take the mask off, refuse to let it slip on, and just be me, I’ve lost a lot of friends. With the mask on, I tend to be the most agreeable person you’d ever meet. Without it, I’ve learned to stand up for what I believe to be right. While trying to do so as kindly as possible, I have lost several “friends” over time.
If you haven’t heard this song, I encourage you to listen to it. It still brings me to tears just about every time I hear it. The link to the video is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DcWQIsG9Rqw
Oh my goodness Amy, I was just about to comment as well that this post reminded me so much of ‘The Real Me’. I was at another church yesterday morning as a guest singer, and gave a brief introduction before singing that song!!!! Like Mary, I was also in music class at bible college one day a few years ago, when my tutor commented that she felt like I was hiding behind something she couldn’t quite put her finger on. It wasn’t until I heard this song for the first time in February that it all started to come together to make sense. The lyrics have been a revelation, and like you, never fail to bring me to tears.
Thankyou Mary (and Amy) for sharing what is on your heart. I pray that many more women come to the realisation that even though we put on our mask every day, God still sees those past hurts, the lack of confidence, the feelings of inadequacy, or whatever else is buried inside, and He longs to unveil us to the world – to show everyone else the ‘Real’ women of God that He created us to be.
God bless xxx
Teri @ StumblingAroundInTheLight says
This is such truth. I too, hardly hide my true feelings to true friends…yet walk around wearing a mask, pretending to have it all together, at church, around town, running errands, etc.
Noticed an interesting phenomenon in regard to wearing my ‘mask’ while blogging:
my well-edited, perfectly-polished, mask-wearing blog posts get hardly any response….while the midnight, emotional, vulnerable, throw-it-out-there posts create a frenzy of heartfelt replies.
Hmmm. Perhaps my mask isn’t so helpful after all…
Mary, this is so beautiful, and so powerful in its truth. I am reminded of what lengths I go through to make it seem like things are okay when they aren’t. I actually shared something similar in topic — about wearing a mask, creating a false identity for myself, to make my parents and friends believe I was someone different than who I knew I was — in my post today. I hid behind a mask for over twenty years, pushing down a secret I didn’t want anyone else to know. God’s healing came in when I allowed Him to gently encourage me to lay it down. Thank you for your words today.
Melissa Brotherton says
I’m hiding behind a mask right now. The “God’s got it all under control, I’m totally confident in Him, everything will work out fine” mask. In reality, I’m terrified about what the next few months hold for my family. I am not hopeful that God will come through in the way I would like. I am discouraged, lonely and broken. But, on my blog, at church, with friends, everyone…I’m happy-go-lucky and laugh in the face of danger.
Mary, you have shown both courage and grace in sharing this piece on masks with us. Knowing that we are accepted for who we are in our family’s eyes, in our friends’ eyes & in especially in God’s eyes is great – when we remember to live in that acceptance. It’s easier to understand it in theory sometimes than to feel it in our hearts and acting on it. It does take courage to act on our faith. You are a great example by sharing these thoughts with us today. Thank you very much!!
Rach (DonutsMama) says
Wow! I could have written what you said about being a SAHM. I was so excited to quit my job and be home too. A lot of people say I’ve got it so good. And I know I’m blessed,but I honestly never realized just how hard and lonely it is. I had such terrible cabin fever those first 2 months–baby was born in January and we had horrible ice and snow. Then she was colicky and I was afraid to leave the house. It’s getting better though, but yeah, I wore a mask a lot too–because I thought I was SUPPOSED to look like June Cleaver.
Did the whole Sunday morning mask thing yesterday! Thank you for reminding me that I need to pull it off.. and be real. God loves me for just who I am!
Thanks for writing this today ~ this mask that I wear is getting heavier and I’ve been feeling the hand of God pushing me to get real, find a mentor, etc. Your words are yet another reminder from Him that He loves me for who I am, as He created me. Thanks again.
Soul Stops says
Thank you for taking off your mask in your honest and well-written post. Being a stay-at-home is challenging. I hope/pray that your post sparks greater authenticity among all of us.
As a recovering perfectionist and pessimist, I needed to know the truth of how much God loves me (Romans 5:8) – regardless of my performance- so that I could have the freedom to be honest about my weaknesses and struggles. God also provided kindred spirits in other women, who were honest about their struggles. We can look to God in the midst of our struggles, and we can begin the process of change.
I am very grateful that I can go to God and He can transform my mess into something beautiful because He is in the renewal business.
Thanks for a wonderful post!
Thank you for this post. I am great at hiding behind my mask, especially at church. I run the youth group, and every week I feel so pressured to say that I am doing fine, even when I am not. For some reason, a lot of parents think that because I help their kids, I never have to deal with the problems college causes. I remember one Sunday, the first one I attended church after my boyfriend broke up with me. I was broken hearted and devastated. But I had to be at church that week. I had to force myself to get out of bed and look presentable, and every time someone asked me “How’s everything?”, saying “I’m fine” or “I’m good” broke me a little more. But I felt like I had to smile and say that. I just get so frustrated with the fact that at church, the one place it should be totally fine to be open about your brokenness, you have to wear that mask.
But anyways, thank you for this fantastic post!
If you only knew just how much I needed to read this!! In the past few weeks God has been revealing some things in my life that aren’t the easiest things to accept. Or course, like most of us I do wear masks on occasion. However, I would tell you that I am pretty good about not wearing one too. There is a group of people that I love dearly and for the past 4-5 years it has been such a safe place, an honest group with whom I have always felt free to be me with… no mask worn there. However in the recent months things have changed and I have struggled… and struggled…. and struggled to know what and why there was change. Just last week God answered those questions and this past Sunday as I sat there with them thinking about it I realized that a mask was being put on around them…. and as I write this and think about your writing I realize that it has almost become necessary to wear that mask with them… that is if I want to hold on to the friendships. I’ve come to realize that maybe being around this group isn’t the healthiest place for me right now…. and that is okay. Life comes in seasons and change isn’t always bad… just different…. and different is okay. I don’t need this group time to maintain a healthy spiritual place…. at one point is it what God used to spur me on and encourage me but now I need something different and as hard as that is… it’s OKAY. We shouldn’t live behind a mask and we shouldn’t put one on just to maintain the “normal” I do great with these friends one-on-one but as group it can be a bit overwhelming as they are all sorta in the same stage of life and I am the odd duck (they are all married… kids… and I’m single and my “children” all have 4-legs). God’s been revealing that I need a place where I no mask is needed and I won’t find a new place until I let go of the old one.
Sorry for the long post… you just really got me thinking:-) Thanks so much for posting and now I think I will have to go write on this subject on my blog:-) LOVE incourage!!!
thanks for all those times you didn’t wear a mask with me. because i like the real you just the way you are 🙂
Living the Balanced Life says
This is a more common than we would like to admit phenomenon, especially in christian circles. At my churches in the past, there was always a mask on my face and most others. At our current church, I make an effort to be more real and not put the mask on and there are many others who don’t either. It is still a constant struggle to not the mask slip back down my forehead!
Thanks so much for sharing!
The walking wounded
Wow! The staying at home part is so me. I, too, am a “new” stay at home mom. People ask me how I like it, congratulate me because it’s what’s best for my kids…and I always tell them I love, and thank them. In reality, while I do love it, I really don’t think I’m that great at it, and I always have way too much room for improvement! I also have a mask when it comes to hard times that my family is going through. We have our struggles (financially, personally, etc.), but on the outside, it always appears that we are just fine. My husband, on the other hand, is always honest. If someone asks him how we or he is doing, he will readily ask for prayer in response. I don’t intentionally try to be fake, I just like to keep stuff to myself. Thanks again for sharing this. I can’t say that it will make me lose my mask, but having a few good people around (and of course God) to see the real you (and me), can help get the mask lowered more often.
sometimes i feel like i have to pretend. because I already have a type and people expect me to be a certain way. I hate fitting in. There is alot in me that wants to come out but God tells me I must stay in my lane. Trying to find the lane.
pauline taylor says
SISTERS THE NUMBER ON REASON WHY WE SHOULD NOT WEAR MASK IT SEPARATE US FROM OUR GOD.
Graceful (for young women) :: A Giveaway — Giving Up on Perfect says
[…] I am – and how different it is from what God wants for me – hit me between the eyes. I’ve written about wearing masks before, and I still struggle with feeling safe enough to be authentic instead of whatever I think you want […]
Guest Blog: The Masks We Wear « My Kind of Happiness says
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what an awesome word I was please because God gave me a word for the people and I said Lord help me to bring forth your word that you have given me..I took my mask off a long time ago so I no that I just didn’t come up with this on my own..Thank you