Halloween will be over by the time everyone reads this column, and for some, it will be another year before dressing in a disguise. But some people never take a mask off.
Fanny Brice, an actress in the early 1900s, was quoted as saying: “Let the world know you as you are, not as you think you should be, because sooner or later, if you are posing, you will forget the pose, and then where are you?”
When I was a lot younger, my grandmother told me to be myself, but that didn’t mean showing my entire self to everyone on a first meeting.
She said it’s like opening a window.
When I start to know someone, I open my window just a little bit, and if the person I’m wanting to trust doesn’t look at me like I’m crazy or weird, I will continue opening the window more.
If the friendship gets better, I might keep opening my window wider, or depending on many factors, I could shut it completely on them.
But, like my grandmother told me so many years ago, nobody will ever see my window opened all the way. The reason is because there are some things we just don’t want anyone to know.
My grandmother was a great mentor, and her “window” metaphor helps me remember that it’s OK to be myself, but maybe only presenting myself a little at a time.
In my high school years, I opened my window more than halfway, and I ended up being terribly bruised emotionally.
It was three days into my sophomore year at a new high school where I didn’t know anybody except for a couple of girls I had met during the summer.
Thinking these girls were my friends, I asked about lunch plans and ended up being rejected by them. That was so hurtful. I felt so humiliated because of the way they told me they didn’t want me hanging around them.
Even though it was true that I hadn’t met many high school friends yet, I didn’t want other people to know that.
By opening my window too much, I revealed more about me than was prudent.
I’ve always been sensitive and, in addition to that, I’ve always been a people pleaser.
If someone doesn’t think God has a sense of humor, all they need to do is look at my personality and chosen profession.
As a newspaper reporter for more than 30 years, there’s no way I can make everybody happy, and when someone is upset with me, it really “ouches” that sensitive part of me.
After the high school experience, I became hesitant to show myself again, and it wasn’t until years later that I finally started to trust again and just be me.
The reason I decided to be myself was because of a dear friend who told me I should always trust people until they give me a reason not to.
That’s such a wonderful, perfect way of looking at the world and the people in it.
When those girls rejected me, I shut down temporarily so nobody could hurt me. But, not everyone was going to be like those girls in my sophomore class.
The idea of wearing a mask to shield my feelings wasn’t a good idea either because in the words of Oscar Wilde: “Be yourself; everyone else is taken.”
Still, when people are hurt too many times in their young lives, they can begin wearing masks to protect themselves, but instead of being functional masks, they might wear a mask to keep people away.
Some of those disguises include an angry mask, perfectionist face, a mask of being the life of the party, using sarcasm or even people-pleasing.
The people-pleaser mask was the mask I preferred, and sometimes when I’m tired or wanting to hide, I still reach for it, but try hard to avoid the temptation. Some days I do better than others.
Using that mask, though, seemed like a good idea many years ago because I wanted to make people happy so they would like and accept me. It might also be a way to keep people from emotionally attacking me.
Individuals using sarcasm hide behind humor and delivery. It’s a sense of acceptance when someone gives a sarcastic remark that might not otherwise be acceptable.
Experts say it’s sort of a back-handed way of getting the point across. Sarcasm carries elements of jadedness, frustration, resentments and more.
When people let go of this biting humor and open up to being more vulnerable, their communication softens and their humor becomes less acidic and more engaging and inspiring.
Ever notice someone who is always mad at the world, and his posturing says, “Stay way from me?” Anger feels more powerful than hurt, fear or sadness and can be used to avoid painful feelings.
Someone told me angry people cover up their sensitivity, equating it to a sheep dressed in porcupine quills. The angry person is lonely and feels worthless.
The best reason not to wear a mask is because God wants all of us to live to our potential, and that’s hard to do if we aren’t being our true selves.
We all need to wear a functional mask, though, because that’s the one we wear at work or, like the window, we are still ourselves, but not opening it too wide.
Can you imagine going to work, and a co-worker or your boss asks you how you are doing?
In response you say: “Oh, I’m scared!”
Not the best thing to say.
Opening up to another person can be the most wonderful experience we can have, but it’s only when they can see us for who we are.
Masks are great for Halloween, but not so good during the rest of the year.
Patty Decker writes news and features for the Free Press. You can reach her at email@example.com.