Last week I was on a Zoom meeting with people from many states. We started the meeting with our usual check-in when one of the members from California shared, “I don’t know which mask to wear when I leave home—do I wear the COVID-19 mask or the smoke prevention mask?”
While that statement was shared with a chuckle at the end it continues to replay in my mind. The COVID-19 pandemic has now required physical masks to be part of our daily attire. That’s me in the photo, back in July.
The dictionary defines a mask as a covering for all or part of the face which is worn as a disguise. The definition goes on to say that it can be used to amuse or terrify people.
Below the required cloth or any of the other material masks we are required to wear today, what is our mask really covering? What are the different masks we wear? Why do we wear these emotional masks? Should we? Is wearing an emotional mask required for survival? These are my thoughts that seek answers.
As I reflected on these questions and similar ones, I realized and was reminded of the various masks that I wear both consciously and subconsciously.
The masks I wear most often are emotional masks which I put on subconsciously. They are based on my assumptions, my experiences, real or perceived, my fears my expectations and more importantly my courage or lack of it.
So much of how we show up in the world is defined by the mirror held up for us by others. It is difficult discerning whether this mirror image is real or an illusion, is right or wrong. It really takes lived life experiences, both the pleasant and unpleasant ones, coupled with honest intentional unpacking and reflecting to understand.
To be truly authentic, to show up as who we are inside and feel safe doing so, requires confidence with humility. It takes tremendous courage and requires a lot of risk-taking.
Given this pandemic it definitely looks like we need a “physical” mask for protection of our own physical health and that of others. However I am speaking about the “non-physical” masks, my emotional ones, the ones I project to others.
More often than not, there’s a lot at stake if I don’t wear my emotional mask, at least that is what my mind tells me and I go down the spiral of thoughts like,
What if I showed up as I am truly feeling and express my honest views that do not resonant with the majority, what would I lose?
What impression will I make? Would I be viewed as defiant, a troublemaker, arrogant? Would I be “found out”, ah the imposter again!
Would the impression others have of me be lessened?
Would being me hurt or harm someone or damage my relationships?
But if I don’t be authentic, am I not a hypocrite, what about my integrity? Am I not projecting a false version of myself in order to hide my true feelings?
Isn’t there a benefit in being true to who we are and how we feel rather than hiding these feelings?
Belonging Beyond the Masks
I return to one of my favorite words Belonging! This “belonging” is felt by me, all of me, my mind, my heart, my gut, my whole being! Feeling like I belong makes me feel held with care, warmth, forgiveness and acceptance.
Belonging is a longing, and when we belong, our masks shed themselves just as easily as they were donned. We see each other for the true beings we are without each other’s masks!
Belonging is not a given, it is an active process and requires a mindset. I truly believe that to receive belonging, I have to offer belonging to all. And acquiring and maintaining the needed mindset is a journey. It requires that I believe in myself, I am true to my values of care for each creation, my abilities, my ethics, my God given gifts and my honest true intent to use these to help others.
Belonging is a basic human need; it transcends every man-made divide. Belonging needs nurturing, a nurturing which is heartfelt and for a greater good, a nurturing of others and self. Giving back is a basic essence of life.
I need to believe in the need for care, kindness and forgiveness to others and myself.
I need to believe that I am worthy of belonging. This requires me to empower myself and seek accurate knowledge and understanding, to take risks and encourage others and myself.
I need to take pause to listen, listen to my own spoken and silent voice, listen to others not to fix or advice, but to listen with empathy to understand.
I need to be open to ideas and opinions. To welcome opportunities with an open mind before making decisions. To keep the faith that, when one door closes another will open.
I need to be nice to all, irrespective of whether we agree or not, whether our views are resonant. Being nice allows me to dissociate the actions and words from the person.
I need to always offer gratitude, gratitude for all things! More importantly, I need to offer gratitude with unconditional surrender to our Creator!
Receiving belonging and offering belonging allows us and who we are with to shed our masks, giving us courage to put our vulnerability on the line. Belonging builds compassionate communities and relationships that we each need to realize that we are indeed enough as we are!
“In a world where everyone wears a mask, it’s a privilege to see a soul.”
#REFLECT: What “mask” are you wearing today? How might you invite your soul—and others—to feel a sense of belonging?
How is the coronavirus and civil unrest around racism changing the way you think of self-care, community and resilience? As this challenging time unfolds, I am posting a quote on this blog with a reflection prompt. Please join in the conversation here or on Twitter with your thoughts or what you are doing for self-care and care of others. My book explores such ideas too: Resilient Threads: Weaving Joy and Meaning into Well-Being.