Behind the Mask



We’ve all gotten pretty familiar with wearing a face mask in these times of Covid-19. And, of course, we have no idea how much longer this is going to be part of our wardrobe. While it’s not our preference, most of us are accepting it and adjusting to wearing a mask as part of the “new abnormal.” But wearing a face mask is easy compared to the masks many of us have worn much of our lives without even realizing it!

You see, we are all born naked–no clothes, no beliefs and no masks. But over time, we accumulate many things. Afterall, our bodies are basically just an accumulation. We eat food and our bodies accumulate nutrients to build our tissues and bones. That part is simple. But we are also an accumulation of the beliefs, concepts, and expectations of our parents, our community and our society. Was anyone born with the innate knowledge they were a New York Yankee’s fan? Of course not, it comes to us from the culture we are raised in. If you’re born in one culture in New York, you’re a Yankee’s fan but in another you’re a Mets fan. Does that mean that you just ARE a Met? No, it’s something you adopted because of what you were taught and the culture you live in.

But hey, what sports team you are a fan of is of little consequence. What’s more significant, and insidious, is all the beliefs, attitudes and behaviors we’ve accumulated and made part of us, when they are unconscious accumulations. We don’t often stop to really consider if these beliefs (about ourselves and others) are really “true” and if they serve us. Do these beliefs reflect who we really are, or are we just reflecting what we’ve been told we are? I’m too tall/short, fat/thin, ugly/beautiful, smart/dumb, etc., are judgements and opinions foisted upon us by others. The job your supposed to do, the career or marriage that is “right” for you, the respectable house and car–much of it we are just conditioned to believe in. And even more questionable, that accumulating these things will make us happy! When we adopt these beliefs unconsciously, we often suffer because we either adopt self-destructive opinions or expectations that don’t reflect the deepest part of our true nature. It is these masks that are much more pernicious and damaging than a Covid face mask!

We all wear masks to fit in, but can we separate those masks we choose to put on to play a certain role versus the masks that we wear that hide who we truly want to be? If we choose to wear a suit and tie because we have a job we love and it is just part of the expectation, that is fine. But when we slip into the weight of clothes that do not fit who we are—just who we were told we should be—we put on a mask that covers up our authenticity from ourselves and others.

This period of Covid-19 is an opportunity to go beyond the mask and to search deep into who we really are, what we want to experience in this life, and how we can serve in a way that is aligned with something greater than just the roles we may have accumulated without giving it much thought. For Denise and me, it accelerated the process of looking at what is really important and what we really “need.” We’d already made huge shifts in our lives, but even the “little” things are coming under the scrutiny of a greater light. Do we really need to eat out frequently at restaurants? Is it that important to be entertained at the theater? When you stop doing certain things, you may realize that some were unnecessary distractions. Sure, we all need to relax and have fun, but our quality of life isn’t necessarily a reflection of the quantity of activities we put on our calendar to keep us entertained and distracted. And those things can prevent us from looking in the mirror and realizing we are wearing a mask that we put on–but is not really of our creation.

When the face masks come off, will you rush to put your other masks back on? Will the desire to go back to “normal” mean you will miss this opportunity to dive deep and take off the masks that don’t fit and don’t serve you. Masks can be fun, but they can also be very scary. Look in the mirror, what sort of mask are you wearing? What would you look like if you took it off? Sure, you might feel a bit naked and vulnerable. But you have the life-changing opportunity to look deeply and decide which beliefs, attitudes, and structures you want to “wear” for the rest of your life. So, we encourage you to go behind the mask and find the real you. And no matter when the face masks come off, you can start revealing the real you!

Be Joyful,
Paul Rogers

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