For the past five weeks I have been leading a ladies bible study on self-confidence vs. God-confidence. As I was working on the study today, I started thinking about all the masks I have worn in my life. We sometimes choose to wear masks because we don’t feel the “real” us would be acceptable in a given situation.
When I was in college and dating my now ex-husband I learned to wear many, many masks. We hung out with a certain crowd. I learned what was appropriate and what was not. Only once did I bring up the fact that I did not have enough money to go a certain place with the rest of the crowd. I didn’t feel my comment was a big deal. But, after we left the crowd, my ex-husband laid into me and yelled at me and called me every bad name I can think of. (Our dysfunctional relationship is a subject for a different post.) But, what I learned from that episode was that you NEVER EVER bring up money problems with the outside world. I began to wear a mask. I learned to never speak about our personal struggles with anyone. Personal struggles were a sign of weakness. People were not allowed to see our weaknesses. From then on, I learned to smile and to live superficially.
Soon after college, my ex-husband and I moved to Washington DC. He wanted to be somebody. And I was along for the ride. I got a job working as an Executive Assistant on Pennsylvania Avenue at a very prestigious lobbying firm. I rubbed shoulders with congressional members and former congressional members. I worked for people who were former Legislative Assistants to three of our former US Presidents.
I learned to wear more masks during this season of my life. I dressed a certain way, acted a certain way, and spoke a certain way. I learned to laugh at jokes that weren’t funny…because I was in the presence of someone who was important. I learned the art of brown-nosing. In case you are unaware of this, our nation’s capital is full of brown-nosers. Working inside The Beltway was like living on a different planet. It’s all about who you know and what you can do for me. You need to know how to play the game.
Let me just say that, I know that my last statement is stereotyping. Many people in DC are genuine and do have good motives but much of what I observed were people who felt the need to “play a certain part” in order to advance. Like many business settings, you had to show tremendous amounts of self-confidence in order to be taken seriously. Self-doubt and timidness were not an option.
I learned never to admit that I was struggling. I learned to play the part. When someone would ask me how I was, I smiled and responded, “Great!” I played the part of confidence. I played the part of “having it all together.”
I lived this way for years. It was exhausting. But trying to be everything and please everyone usually is. It will, at some point, destroy you. Survival, for me, meant taking off the masks and refusing to put them back on. Unlike what the world tries to tell us…there is actually power in admitting our weaknesses. There is freedom when we make the choice not to keep playing a part.
I am so thankful that I don’t feel a need to wear any masks today. If I am having a bad day, I can tell people that I am miserable or that I am struggling. If I don’t have money to do something or buy something, I can admit this without shame. Today, I am blessed to do life with a circle of friends who accept my naked, imperfect face! No mask is necessary. And not only that, I have come to believe, with all my heart, that my Savior loves to look at my mask-free face. It’s only when we choose to throw out the masks, that we finally give God permission to come in and give us the ultimate makeover. The mask of grace covers me completely. I plan on wearing it for the rest of my life!