Though we’re strangers, still I love you
I love you more than your mask
And you know you have to trust this to be true
And I know that’s much to ask
– Rich Mullins
October is here already which means many children, and more than a few adults, are starting to plan what they will wear for Halloween.
I don’t know of any holiday or social custom that polarizes families as much as Halloween. There are many who are in the camp that believes it is an anti-Christian, pagan ritual, and must be avoided, discouraged, or ignored at all cost. Then there are those who see it as just a fun holiday and an opportunity play games, collect and eat as much candy as possible, and most importantly, dress up in a costume and pretend to be someone, or something, other than what we really are!
I’m not here to promote either camp as having more merit than the other, but I will confess to being on the side that enjoys a little fun and make-believe. I also believe there is great value in allowing our children let their imaginations run wild, don a creative costume, put on a mask, and pretend to be a superhero, pop star, historic person, or fairy-tale character. It allows them think and feel what it would be like to be extraordinary and live an amazing life. I think we should encourage that every chance we can!
We all wear masks at times throughout our lives for various reasons. Sometimes the reasons are fun, well-meaning, and healthy. Other times, our masks are meant to hide or deceive for unhealthy, destructive, or even criminal reasons. Some people are very skilled at wearing different masks in different settings and it is often hard to know if we are interacting with the “real” or the “pretend” person. Many people get so good at wearing masks they, themselves, lose track of who they truly are.
Masks are a great way of hiding our perceived flaws. We live in a culture obsessed with physical beauty, the standard for which is set by media, not by real life. This creates self-perception issues for those of us who don’t look like underwear models. So, we apply makeup to hide our blemishes. We wear wigs or hairpieces to cover our bald spots. We get plastic surgery to our faces or other body parts because we want to look more “beautiful.” The reality, however, is that we do not do this because of how we want to look. We do it because of how we want to feel. We think that we will feel more valuable, respected, or loved if we could just look better than we do. Again, I’m not judging or saying this is entirely or always a bad thing. I’m not. I know many stories of how people’s self-esteem and, consequently, their lives were greatly enhanced because of cosmetic surgery. However, I know countless more stories of people who, after making the physical appearance changes, still have a low self-image.
Another mask that most of us wear without even thinking about it is the mask of how we present ourselves, our accomplishments, our lives to be grander than they really are. If you have ever spent more than five minutes on Facebook, you know exactly what I mean. It is one thing to share photos or status updates from your life so family and friends can see what we are doing. This is what we used to do years ago by writing letters and enclosing a few photos and sending them to our parents or siblings. However, how often do we post photos of ourselves looking our best or doing exciting things because we want our friends and family to believe we are living awesome lives. How often to see a post from someone and think “they are always out having so much fun. I wish we were like that.” I have to confess to feeling that way often. In reality, many people are posting to social media to mask how average they really are. These types of masks are often so subtle that we do not even realize we are wearing them.
There are, of course, the masks people wear to intentionally hide their identities fraudulent and or criminal activities. All too often we see news reports of masked men robbing banks or convenience stores. We also hear of people representing themselves to be someone they are not or working for some company when they really do not. These are masks intentionally worn for dishonest purposes.
There are, however, times when wearing a mask can be fun, creative, and healthy. Allowing our children to dress up for Halloween is a great example, but there are times when adults can or should do this, too!
As a life coach, I work with people who are trying to change their lives for the good of themselves, their families, and society. They have dreams and aspirations, visions and goals for what they want to accomplish in life, but they are unsure of how to get started. That’s why they come to me. We talk it through, flesh-out what they want to achieve in great detail, and then devise a plan with specific goals and objectives for getting it done. However, with many people, there is a bigger issue that needs to be solved first. It is the problem of self-image and self-worth. The problem is you cannot, for a sustained period of time, out perform who you perceive yourself to be. If your self-image is that of low to average value to society, you will have a very hard time becoming someone extraordinary who creates great value in the world. You cannot soar like an eagle if you see yourself as a duck.
You have, undoubtedly, heard the phrase “fake it `til you make it!” There is great truth and value to that statement. There is great value in visualizing, imagining, and, as much as possible, pretending that you already are the person you want to become. If you think a person who has achieved what you want to achieve lives in a big house and drives a fancy car, then spend your weekends visiting model homes and car dealerships. Walk through the houses, test-drive the cars, while pretending they are yours. It is important, when you do this, to feel the feelings you think you will feel when you achieve your goal. More important than feeling what it will be like to have material things, is imaging the feelings you will feel about the person you have become, the value you add to the world, and the love for the person you have become. This is what we did when we were kids and pretended to be super heroes, cowboys, or princesses. The pretending was all about how it made us feel. This is a good thing!
Here is a fun party suggestion for you. You know how much our kids love to get together with other kids for “dress-up” parties. They love costume parties where they can come dressed and acting like who they want to be. As adults, we’ve settled for “come as you are” parties. Instead, invite all of your friends to come over for a “come as who you will be party!” Tell them to come dressed like, acting like, and feeling like who they want to be five years from now. All conversations will be centered around what you have achieved, how your life has changed, and the value you have added to the lives of others because of things you have accomplished and the person you have become over the last five years. Try it! I think you will be amazed to discover what other people want to do and become. Once you know their dreams and they know yours, you can all help each other achieve them!
So I’d like to encourage you, as your children, and perhaps you, decide who or what to be for Halloween, to think about your masks. Maybe it is time to start dreaming and imagining what it will feel like to be the person, do the things, and live the live you have always wanted. Put on the mask and costume of who you want to become and start, as much as possible, living that extraordinary life.
Or, perhaps, it is finally time to drop your guard, love and value yourself for who and what you are, and take off the mask you’ve been wearing out of fear or insecurity, and allow the real, beautiful you to step into the light. Those who know you, and even strangers like myself, love the real you more than they love your mask!