Masks are coverings worn on the face to conceal an identity. They can be used for protection (gas mask) or for fun (Halloween or masquerade parties among other things). Whatever the case, masks are symbols of something or someone else. But outside of parties and military training, what other types of masks are there? And why wear them? It’s simple….to keep people from seeing who we really are.
MAC. Cover Girl. Revlon. Avon. Mary Kay. These are just a few of the names of some of the most popular cosmetic companies in the world. They make billions of dollars by helping people enhance or protect their appearance. The secret to their success? They spend billions in ad dollars each year playing on people’s insecurities with such slogans as “Maybe it’s her, maybe it’s Maybelline.” Or “If you don’t look good, we don’t look good.” or “Keep that schoolgirl complexion.” These slogans and many more like them promise the attention and adoration that comes from using their products which can make you more beautiful. In essence, they are saying, “Hey, you’re ugly. But you won’t be if you use our product.” That’s how advertising works. In today’s world, particularly American society, we are constantly being told about better ways to look, feel, and be. TV commercials pushing, magazines, music, even religion. We are surrounded by forces that influence how we should look, feel, and be.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Make up does have its uses and there are definitely times when it can enhance someone’s appearance. However, the moment we become dependent on it to define us is the moment that we compromise who and what we really are. And as we continue to crumble under the weight of other peoples opinions and preferences by applying more and more ‘mascara’, the further we move away from our true Self and into a time where no one is as they seem….a mask era.
Many of us wear masks each and every day. We go to great lengths to keep up appearances. We stay in loveless relationships or marriages because religion frowns upon divorce or we’d rather stay than leave and have to deal with what everyone else will have to say; we stress ourselves over jobs we hate because it’s what we went to college to do, the pay is great, and we enjoy the respect and admiration of our colleagues, family, and friends even though we are not fulfilled; or we continue to justify being single because others don’t meet our expectations when deep down we’re afraid of failure or being hurt. Whatever the reason, some of us have our masks on so tight and have grown so accustomed to wearing them that we have long forgotten our true selves and the beauty that lies underneath our masks.
As a kid, there were a lot of people I wanted to be like. My big brothers. My uncles. Celebrities. Anyone but myself. I didn’t want to be the skinny, black kid with the jacked up acne who would rather play an instrument that play sports. Why? Simply because that’s not what anyone else wanted. I was surrounded by many people who did not know how to accept and appreciate me. Now, is this to say that I was not loved? Definitely not. I was very much loved and I can’t blame those people for what they thought or how they felt because they were doing the best they could with what they knew at that point in time….in other words, they didn’t know better. My point is that during my youth my self-worth and self-esteem was subject to the whims and opinions of other people. In other words, long before Naughty by Nature, I was down with OPP – Other People’s Perspectives.
It wasn’t until I started to question my thoughts and opinions that I learned how deep my mask was and how it had gotten there. It was at that point that I sought to learn more about who I really am. And once I began to seek, slowly but surely I began to find. And what I found was the truth…which is basically that I was never lost and my mask was merely an illusion that I chose. And if I chose to wear it, then I could choose to remove it. It was a matter of choice. And I chose me. The real me. The me I wanted to create. There’s so much more to that, but that’s another blog.
As kids, we are susceptible to anything we are told. We accept whatever is fed into our minds. We’re much like an empty cup. Whatever is poured into the cup will stay there until it is emptied. The cup does not discriminate. It accepts whatever fills it’s space without fuss or fight. The space in the cup is our subconscious mind which accepts what suggestions are given to it (note that the subconscious mind is where all habits and automatic body functions such as your heart beating and eyes blinking reside. They don’t need any concentration on your part. It’s automatic.) He who pours into the cup is the conscious mind which is responsible for giving, accepting, and rejecting all suggestions (this is where the power of choice lies). So, if we are told we are beautiful and accept that, then our conscious mind pours that into our subconscious mind and that’s what we act out. The same thing happens if we’re told we’re ugly or worthless. (Note that this includes just as much autosuggestion (self-talk) as it does suggestion from outside influences.)
So, what happens? Depending on what we allow into our minds, we adjust who we are according to what we are told. We continue building our masks. We lose sight of who we really are in order to fit in. We make up the mask that will become our adult self and go forth into the world to do nothing more than fit in.
What is our mask? The ego. The ego is basically how we see ourselves. It expresses itself through our personality and attitudes. (And contrary to popular belief, the ego is not gender specific. It’s not just a man thing. A woman’s ego needs just as much ‘stroking’ as a man’s. But that’s a whole other blog.) The personality is the outward expression of who you believe yourself to be. Ask someone to describe you and they would surely describe you by your personalities or actions. It is the culmination of our past experiences. We spend years developing and perfecting the personality mask so that we can fit into society and live up to expectations set by our friends, family, and ourselves. What’s funny is that we long for others to accept us as we are, but sometimes it’s hard to do that when people can’t see who we really are. It’s even more difficult when we can’t even see or accept ourselves as is.
Can there be more to us than our moods, attitudes, and past actions? Most definitely. Again, masks only cover up what is beneath. They are not real. They are only projections of what we think we are. The real you is still there….hiding, yet still in tact and just as perfect as the moment you were created.
Clouds only cover or block the sun from our view, but the sun is still there and still shines bright. The You that God created still shines beneath the mask you use to display to the world. The Bible talks about hiding your light under a bushel. The Self that lives in you is the light. Your personality is the bushel. (Please note that when I speak of ‘letting your light shine’, I’m not referring to it in the biblical sense that is meant most times. Most of the time people mean continuing to profess Christianity regardless of whom you may meet. But, even religion can be a mask. Religion is a mask of modes, rituals, and customs that man tries to place over God. To put it simply, it’s man’s feeble attempt to put a face on God. Staying true to your religions is a great example of devotion, however when talking about letting your ‘light shine’, I’m referring to removing the obstacles that prevent you from seeing, knowing, and expressing your true self. Which is maybe what the scriptures mean in the first place, huh?)
Remove the shade from a lamp and the room gets brighter. The light bulb shines at it’s highest degree whether the shade is on or off. The only difference is the amount you allow to shine. The moment you begin to chip away at your shade (your mask) you allow your true self to shine. You chip away at the mask by knowing yourself. You chip away at your mask by understanding that you are a perfect creation without flaw or blemish. For if you were, then that would mean that God makes mistakes. And the moment God makes mistakes is the moment that he ceases to be God. And seeing that God is Everything and Everything is God, then nothing He creates can be less than Him at any moment. When God created you, He gave you all that He has. He is the Light within you. Creation is not unlike it’s Creator. When God creates, He doesn’t give you just a piece of Him….He gives you All of Him. And that’s more than enough.
Removing your mask is as easy as knowing that the mask is not real. It never was. The mask is not you. It never was. It was only what you thought was you. Only what is real exists. Anything that is unreal does not. Don’t hide behind your marriage, friends, organization, job, money that does not serve your higher Self. They do not define you. For if you take them all away, you’re left with you. And that’s more than enough.
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