This picture is a great example of how many of us move through life. We make adjustments in our lives with masks for each role, audience, or desired result. We hide who we truly are, how we really feel. How many of you go on autopilot when someone says, “Hi! How are you?” Without even thinking, we typically blurt out the routine, “Fine.” or “Good.” It’s so routine. As my life is transitioning, The Skinny Girl Speaks (check out the podcast) to me about how effortlessly and seamlessly we move from mask to mask. Why? Well, there several reasons that come to mind.
Reason 1: It Was The Best Defense
Many of us were taught this because it was the best defense our mothers, grandmothers, or great grandmothers had up against their own harsh realities. They saw this as a survival skill that they could pass along to us. Without much hope of things changing, many anticipated a similar hard fate for the future generations and thought it best to prepare us for what was to come. Knowing they wouldn’t always be there to protect us, at least we would be equipped to adjust, blend, camouflage and live. Or perhaps, the masks enabled them to get the things they needed to survive. Teaching you to manipulate was a good defense against lack. And there are oh so many more! They thought the masks would serve us well. And because we trusted them, we thought so too.
Reason 2: It Worked For Us
So we tried them out and saw some benefit. Adapting, even against our better judgment, meant we would now be included. Hanging out with those who were popular and imitating their look, language, and life made us feel as though we had accomplished something. And this happens within the church, too. Checking the religious boxes, attending the right church functions, connecting with the approved cliques, performing the accepted tasks…all to be accepted as ‘spiritual’. We’ve done this so well that we began to endear to the masks. “Don’t leave home without it!” became our mantra. We dressed up the masks and made them look nice. These masks provided a place for us to hide for a moment. If I’m caught up in the busyness of fitting in, the distraction of adapting, I don’t have to face my reality – that I don’t know who I am. Meanwhile, the core of us became a shadow lurking behind each mask.
Reason 3: We Lost Touch
Subsequently, this routine (wearing masks) distances us daily from who we are. We spend so much time engaging our survival skill of masking that we lose touch with our real self. I was in a leadership class a few years ago about understanding different personality types and how to partner best with them in ministry. The facilitator said that we are most like our true selves around the ages of 5-7. I found that fascinating. But it made total sense. After studying a bit, I learned that during our developmental stages, this age range is typically marked with egocentrism. Not in a bad way either. That’s typically the time we are uninhibited, unbothered and uninfluenced by other’s beliefs or opinions because, for the most part, it’s all about us. This is good at this age though. There is no abstract reasoning or understanding yet so we don’t know to fear the unknown and change to brace ourselves against pain or unfavorable outcomes. We are simply carefree, learning and growing. We just are who we are BEFORE things that will shape forever begin to get piled on.
Who are you? How do you uncover life’s layers to discover the YOU that God made. Psalm 139:17 says, “all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” (NIV) To me this means, there’s a library in Heaven filled with volumes of books. And one of them is my story. One of them is your story. Perfectly written with hope and a future. Who is the main character in that story? What was her personality like, the pure one from the beginning of the story? When did this change? And how can she return to her authentic self? The self who doesn’t wear masks. The self who isn’t afraid of being seen, really seen, for fear of being judged and not accepted.
Finally, Here’s My Solution
There’s more than coping, adjusting, and accommodating just to get from day to day. As Christian women, we have hope. This is how Jesus put it. “A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.” (John 10:10, MSG) The thief came to steal, kill and destroy our identity with masks. Jesus came for us to have life – and life to the fullest – real and eternal! That means right now as well as eternally.
Don’t turn to social media to find your true self. It’s not there. Most of that is only what people want you to see. It’s not in mimicking your favorite celebrities. Chances are, they’re wearing masks themselves. You want to be a copy of a fabrication? Of course not! It’s not found in just digging deep within you and creating your best self. You already have a creator and HE lives in you. He will tell you who you are.
Go before the Lord and place your desire for identity (without a mask) at His feet. Petition Him and ask for guidance. I am a living witness that He will answer you. He’s walking me through it. My prayer is that Jesus will lead you through reading the Word and prayer to the right resources. This is what He has done for me – and I’ve embraced walking through this for a year or two.
Here’s a prayer that I’ve held onto during this time:
Lord, guide me into truth about myself. I trust that if you show me, then you are saying that I’m ready and that you will be with me through the process.
John 16:13 says the when the spirit of Truth comes, who is Holy Spirit, He will guide us into all truth. I take that to mean even about myself.
My life has been enriched beyond what I could have ever imagined. I am learning who I am. And you know what?? I like her!!