During my elementary years my mother and I would often take trips to our local Salvation Army. It was always a highlight for me to get away from our country home and spend the day in our small city; as bargain hunting at a thrift store was one of my favorite activities.
I loved to leisurely browse the racks for a new outfit, a great book title, a fun handbag or a new-to-me pair of shoes.
Until one day, as I was engrossed in looking through the over stocked isles of used clothing, shoes and books; my eyes spotted another classmate. As our eyes locked, I was instantly mortified! No matter how quickly I began to dodge and duck my way through the crowded racks – I knew I had been spotted.
In this brief encounter I became embarrassed of who I was. Immediately I felt exposed and humiliated that someone knew that my clothes came from another person’s cast off’s.
From that day on I began to accept a lie about myself. Feeling like I had somehow been exposed as something dirty, something not enough, somebody less than the other kids in my class.
Not only did I learn to physically run and hide when I saw other students come into the thrift store; but I learned to hide within myself, as I feared that they would make fun of me for who I was.
“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?”
Comedian and actress Fanny Brice
Below are a few reasons why we learn to hide our emotions.
- As a child you may have repeatedly heard your parents, siblings or friends say: “Stop being such a cry baby.” With this message you quickly told yourself that crying was not appropriate.
- You may have unconsciously been taught to shut down your true emotions by hearing or seeing other people’s reactions when you had risked and spoken honestly.
- When you were open with your feelings – you quickly realized that you had treaded unknowingly into a land-mind that was not appropriate to the listener or audience. It didn’t take long for you hide your questions or comments in these arenas which seemed to be silently taboo or off-limits.
- Sometimes as people go through deep losses or transitions they don’t even know how to verbalize their own emotions, so they put on a mask to hide what they are afraid may emerge.
- If you have ever had a blow-up where your emotions rose to the surface in an inappropriate way, you will do anything to keep your emotions from rising to the surface again.
If we stay hidden behind emotional masks in which we do not reveal our true emotions, we can end up becoming resentful of others. We will most likely give into the voice of cynicism, sarcasm, learn to stay silent or at some point, blow up in public.
Often when we can’t identify the true source of our emotions we can be easily drawn into numbing our feelings by excessive actions like; overeating, compulsive or excessive shopping, too much social media, over sleeping, working harder, watching excessive TV or entertaining substance abuse.
The Mask of Spirituality:
While some may hide behind masks to keep others from seeing them for who they really are, I believe that as Christians, Christian workers, pastors or missionaries; we wear our own brand of masks to protect our spirituality, our families, and our ministries.
The mask of spirituality may look something like this:
Not wanting to tell someone I am burned out
Fear of sharing that I am near moral failure
Fear that if I am honest, I might be sent home or removed from my job
Fear that my teammates or church won’t like me if ___________
Fear I will lose those who support my work if they know__________
Pretending that our kids are okay-when our home feels out of control
Pretending that our marriage is okay-when we have distance between us
Fear to share that I am struggling with depression
Fear that my work is not measuring up under other’s standards
When these masks present themselves, we can often find ourselves as Christians and Christian workers in compromising situations.
Situations that unintentionally cause us to become:
- A bully to gain power
- Manipulate team-mates/ church staff or others with our self-debasement or self-righteous actions
- Live an unhealthy life-style that we cannot afford
- Act like things are okay when they’re not
- Walk a fine line that may land us into moral failure
- Put our ministry above our family’s needs
- Live under the strained relationship with teammates or spouses while acting like everything is fine
- Become political in our approach to get what we want to make us look good
- Wearing pride to puff-up what is happening in our ministries
- Putting others down to elevate ourselves
- Overworking ourselves to the point of burn-out.
Unintentionally we can wear the mask of spirituality so that our ministry or work will not be viewed by others as lacking. We hide behind self-righteous acts; so our leaders will assess us as capable, and having it all together.
We cover up our flaws, hide the skeletons in our closet, push down our shame and live spiritual lives which portray that we are living in godly harmony and strength “In the Lord”.
“It is possible that we cheat ourselves and others from knowing
and receiving our true-selves as God intended, when we hide
under man-made disguises?”
Different by Design
Personal Mask Assessment:
I wear the mask of ____________because I am afraid I will be found out about __________________.
I wear the mask of __________________because I am afraid that if people know who I really am they won’t_____________________ me.
I wear the mask of __________because I don’t know how to handle the unresolved situation I am in.
I wear the mask of ____________________because I am afraid of not being successful.
- Think through the following questions.
Fake, Fraud or Real?
Why do you think as women that we are often afraid of authenticity?
What do you personally think the greatest risk of authenticity is?
Why is it so hard to be who we really are? No façade, no mask, no disguises?
- Do you relate to any of the following?
- The fear of not being liked
- The fear of others not thinking well of me
- The fear of not being accepted
- The fear of others not thinking I am capable, put-together, smart
- The fear of not being welcomed into the group
- The fear of others thinking that I am not good enough
- The fear of not feeling valued
- The fear of being judged unfairly by others
- The fear of not being understood
- The fear of others not thinking of me at a certain economic level
- The fear of others taking my opinions the wrong way
- The fear of feeling like a bother to people’s time and energy
If any of these messages become the regular voice in our heads we will become easy prey to the enemy who prowls around seeking whom he may devour.
Satan would like nothing better, then for us to hide God’s glory by not living authentically out of His good, and perfect design.
Ask Yourself: Do I cover up my fears by wearing masks of self-protection; shielding others from knowing the real me?
“There is not another you.
God only made one You!
You are Different by His Design!
Created with purpose and passion.”
Different by Design
God, I ask you to forgive me for allowing others to define who I am. Continue to show me that You are the only One who can give to me value and worth.
Help me to be able to identify the true source of my emotions that cause me to hide behind masks of pretense, as I want to live out of my unique God-designed self; Different by Your Design.
God, let all that I am, learn to wait quietly before You, for my hope is in You. For You alone are my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will not be shaken. My victory and honor come from You, O God alone. For You are my refuge, a rock where no enemy can reach me.
May I take delight in you Lord, knowing that it is You alone that can give to me the desires of my heart. May I commit everything I do to you, Lord. Teach me to place my trust in You alone, knowing that You will help me be the woman You desire me to be. In Jesus Name I Pray – Amen!
*Prayer scriptures are taken from the New Living Translation of the Bible. (1 John 1:9; Psalm 62:5-7; Psalm 37:4-5)
Linda Jane Dingeldein: Different by Design applauds the creativity of all who paraded in the 22nd Pakalog Festival competition in Santolan, Manila, Philippines.
Photography by Linda Jane Dingeldein