Until recently we easily associated the use of a mask with a couple of areas. One was something we all associated with Halloween for whether worn a child or an adult. it was a part of a costume that allowed us to assume another identity … to pretend and be seen as someone other than the person we actually were. Another common and expected use was in a hospital-like setting wherein masks contributed to maintaining a needed sterile environment. And then, rather suddenly, the mask became a mandatory part or our everyday wear as a critical means of the prevention of getting or spreading a deadly virus.
Several months later the masks we wear or, at least, are supposed to wear, have become much a part of our daily existence. And as much as we want COVID-19 to be history along with all that it has come to represent in terms of impact on our lives, there is absolutely no evidence that it or the protective masks are soon to be gone … only wishful thinking. However, I’ve come to be sensitized to some who have actually begun to tolerate the wearing of their masks for what they interpret as other personal benefits.
This made me curious to gain a better understanding of what motivates some to historically wear some form of mask … what they provide to the wearer and what they help avoid or accomplish that would be a bigger challenge without it? What I’ve come to realize is that mask wearing is not new for many. This being the case, I wanted to gain an understanding of the value that a mask provides. Here is some of what I learned. Wearing a mask …
- allows us to project ourselves differently than we perceive us
- Do we tend to be shy and withdrawn? Our mask allows us to be bold and confident.
- allows us to project agreement when it might be the right thing to do
- Do we have trouble hiding our feelings? Our masks prevent others from seeing our true reactions.
- allows us to play our role as we think others expect of us
- Showing support to ‘the team’ when we really disagree with a decision made
- allows us to live our lives as we really want to live them
- Is playing our role behind the mask allowing us to be the person we want however are held back by our own perception of self?
In today’s COVID-19 world we are all experiencing the physical act of donning our masks with consistency. In some ways it has made carrying on with our lives easier in that we don’t have to be as conscious of the hiding, protecting, faking and playing an expected or desired role. Thus, some describe this as a side benefit of living as we are today. And yet, we are all hopeful that there will be a preventative treatment for COVID-19 that will allow us to move freely throughout out lives confident in remaining healthy and the sooner the better.
When this day comes it also comes with an opportunity to those of us who have been wearing masks as an ongoing part of our existence. Sure, we can resume life as we know it however, we also will be faced with the opportunity to emerge from this health threat and emerge into a life that reflects our true selves. We will have the opportunity to truly be seen … as we are. Consider these points:
- Become aware of when and under what circumstances you tend to don your mask
- When do we say something or act in a certain way wherein, we know we are not being authentic?
- Consider what we are trying to achieve in wearing our mask
- Recognize that the mask you wear really isn’t who you are or want to be
- Often, we begin wearing a mask many years prior and have really outgrown the need to wearit. Habit allows us to continue … until we question ourselves
- Although seeing some benefits, how does it keep us from being who we want to be?
- Playing a role takes work which adds to rather than diminishes stress
- Commit to being your true self and making that happen
- Review your actions after a meeting or at the end of the day intent on identifying where you realize you were ‘playing the role’ perhaps expected
- Become curious as to how your mask appears to others
- Identify the ways in which being your true self will make your life easier and more enjoyable
Let me summarize my learning. There are 3 very practical reasons to encourage and justify us to shed our non-COVID-19 masks. The first is because it enables us to live to our full potential. The second reason is simply to bring us relief as playing a role that is inauthentic is exhausting. The third reason is the healing it allows us to do because wearing our masks withholds some part of ourselves that we perhaps deem unworthy.
Hopefully and sooner than later, we are going to be able to step outside and interface with others and our world in general without the masks we are wearing today. It seems like an ideal time to do some personal self-evaluation that makes certain that we also remove all the masks we might be wearing. As Oscar Wilde said, “Be yourself; everyone else is taken.” We weren’t born with masks. We put them on, so we can take them off. Sounds like a plan, goal and opportunity to me. Perhaps there is value to COVID-19 afterall.