“Criticism is something you can easily avoid by saying nothing, doing nothing, being nothing” ~Aristotle
In our pursuit of happiness, it is natural to seek approval. From our earliest days we would look up towards our parents for an approving face as we scooted across the floor on our hands and knees. Very little changes as we pass through school, enter the workforce and build long lasting relationships. Every step of the way a different ‘mask’ of approval is worn.
I would imagine that when people think of a mask, they tend to think of someone being two-faced. When someone close to us is two-faced it can really challenge or end the relationship. Why would someone give two different messages? Which message is the ‘right’ one? Which ‘face’ should I trust? Should I trust this person anymore?
All of these are valid questions and concerns, but another question worth asking is what is the fear that is driving the mask-wearer? I believe this fear is tied to approval and happiness.
If we look at young children, some may begin lying once they realize that telling the truth will bring disapproval and unhappiness. Sometimes they even lie about good things because of the manner in which the question is asked. Why would adults be any different?
It’s impossible to have relationships devoid of unhappiness or disapproval. Rather than allowing the moment of unhappiness or disapproval to pass naturally, however, the tendency is to place a mask upon the face and let a little white lie slip out.
“Sorry, I can’t get together with you this weekend, my wife/husband has me doing chores all weekend long.” You can imagine what your friends may begin to think of your spouse when they hear that excuse too often. “Sorry, I can’t get together this weekend, I really want to spend time with the family” is honest, but it now prioritizes your family over your friends. Oh the humanity! If your friends don’t understand that, then are they really your friends?
Perpetuating this culture of donning a mask ‘protects’ us from being a part of disapproval or unhappiness, but is anyone truly happy about having to hide behind a mask in front of friends, family or co-workers? When we don’t tell the truth and instead try not to visit disapproval, disappointment or unhappiness upon ourselves or others, the web simply grows and so does our collection of masks.
Imagine if a person could track down every mask they ever wore in front of someone. What would that person look like? Would the person match their mask/s? Would it fit a Facebook profile? Resume? Sometimes the hardest thing to do is rip the mask off. But removing the mask can be freeing, because there is no need to remember which mask goes with which outfit, circumstance, group or person. There’s less to remember, less time backpedaling and more time for happiness, shared through genuine relationships that accept you on your good days and your bad.
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