The year 2020 is one that will go down in history. Covid19 came out of nowhere, disrupting our lives and our livelihoods. Efforts to control the spread of the disease have resulted in various pieces of legislation being passed; the latest of those being, the wearing of masks while in public spaces.
Social scientists have seized the opportunity to conduct empirical studies relating to the effects of the pandemic on society. One particular area of focus is the wearing of masks. Some researchers have found that wearing of masks may not only help to protect against the disease but also increase the level of perceived self-protection and solidarity, resulting in improved mental health wellbeing.
In our current situation, masks are being worn as a form of protection and they lead to some level of perceived security. I want to turn our attention now not to our physical masks but to our emotional masks.
Authors of Psychology: The Science of Behavior, explains that expressions of emotion are not always frank and honest indications of a person’s emotional state but that they can be masked, modulated or simulated. Masking is attempting to hide the expression of an emotion. Modulation is the attempt to exaggerate or minimize the expression of an emotion, while simulation is an attempt to express an emotion that one does not feel. Masking can also be extended to our personalities; where one’s natural personality can be masked. For instance, someone who is a controller maybe masking feelings of insecurity, or the class clown who seems so sociable and likeable may be masking feelings of inferiority. Like our physical masks, our emotional masks are often used for protection and provides a perceived sense of security.
Some of the reasons identified for masking are, the type of relationship, status differences, location, and social setting. It is my conviction however, that the number one reason for masking is fear. Fear, one of the most powerful human emotions, is a significant motivating factor in our lives. I am sure that if we were to really examine our negative behaviors and those instances when we have either knowingly or unknowingly practiced masking, more often than not, we would find that we were acting from a place of fear. Fear of rejection, fear of being hurt, fear that we are not good enough, fear of not being accepted, fear of being mistreated, fear of invalidation, fear of being vulnerable, fear of showing our true selves.
Effects of Masking
Masking is a facade and continuously being in such a state is bound to take a toll at some point. A major effect of masking is mental and emotional exhaustion. Persistently putting on an act, and suppressing one’s true emotions takes a lot of effort and energy. When mental and emotional exhaustion occurs, it makes way for several other mental, emotional and physical problems.
Another effect of masking is suppression of one’s true and authentic self. When we wear masks, our true selves are suppressed, it means that we don’t show people who we really are or what we are truly made of. If we keep our real selves hidden, then we are likely to miss out on reaching our fullest potential. We are likely to miss out on becoming all that we were intended to be. The third and final effect of masking I want to mention, is the erosion of our relationships. I am sure you will agree with me when I say that trust is one of the pillars of any successful relationship. Honesty and openness are the keys to building trust, and that includes emotional honesty. When we are masking, we aren’t being open and honest with our relationship partner about our emotions.
I realize that many of us who wear masks do not do so with the intention to deceive but rather to protect ourselves. The truth is, wanting to protect ourselves is very reasonable, and we sometimes find ourselves in situations and relationships where we must do so. Nonetheless, I want to encourage you, where ever it is possible remove your masks.
Remove your masks and relieve yourself of mental and emotional exhaustion, remove your mask and show your true self, remove your mask and let your loved ones know that you are hurting. You just may find it liberating and empowering.
You just may find that what you feared the most was just a false emotion papering real, and has no real ground to stand on. You just may find your energy and joy for living return. You just may find that there are those in your life that will love you, love the real you for who you are. You just may find that there are many in your life who will do what they can to ease your hurt or help you carry your burden or provide you with the help you need or help you find the help you need. I want to join with lawyer and Pastor Susan Sparks, in quoting one of the Pastors of Hope City Church in Indianapolis, who said, “Masks make shallow what God has intended to be deep. Everything in our lives get cheated when we choose to hide behind our masks.” Remove your masks.
I wish to also encourage you to create an environment in which others will feel free to remove their masks. If you are judgmental, critical and unkind then it stands to reason that others will be practice masking around you. But if you are non-judgmental, kind, compassionate and supportive you allow others room to be their true selves; you give them the encouragement they need to shed their masks.
Galatians 6:2 admonishes us, “Share each other’s burdens and in this way fulfil the law of Christ” (NLT). Would someone who is assured of help in carrying their burdens, who is assured of compassion, encouragement and kindness feel the need to wear a mask for protection? I think not. When a person feels safe and secure, they will be comfortable in removing their masks. Be sure that you are creating such an environment in your personal relationships and for the people you meet every day. Be sure that people see you as someone they can trust and not as someone who will bring them harm or pain.
Wrapping Things Up
I do not mean to infer that masking is entirely bad. Not to sound contradictory, but I believe in some situations, it can be useful. It is not in every situation that we may want the other party to know how we truly feel, for instance when dealing with a superior or sparing someone’s feelings. However, it is not something to be practiced on a consistent basis to the point where it becomes part of our daily lives, hurt our relationships or hide our authentic selves.
It should also be noted that masking isn’t always successful or successfully maintained over an extended period of time. Sometimes leakage can occur. This refers to a subtle sign of the emotion being masked, a small revelation of the true emotion or self. When this happens one can be perceived as being false. We want to always strive towards being our truest selves.
I leave with you one of my favorite quotes, which is taken from “The Velveteen Rabbit” by Margery Williams, “once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.” Be real; take off your masks.
Thank you for taking time to read this post. If you enjoyed it please share it with a friend. Until next time, be safe and be blessed. 😊