The Masks We Wear: Could They Be Good for Us?

Woman Surrounded by a Crowd of People Wearing MasksThere are times when we aren’t necessarily our best selves—times when we’re tired or cranky, feeling less than capable, unsure which direction to turn, anxious, or just plain “off.” Frequently in those moments, we compensate by putting on a “mask” of sorts.

We sometimes put on a mask to protect us from letting others see us as weak or imperfect (and the truth is, we don’t like to see ourselves that way, either). Generally speaking, we don’t want others to see us sweat. We often associate masks with being less than authentic.

However, a positive phenomenon can take place when we pretend to be something we’re not. Have you heard the expression “fake it until you make it”? When we take on the characteristics we’d like to possess, practice them with regularity, and change our behaviors in order to better match those traits, we may find ourselves becoming that which we originally pretended to be.

The following are five masks that many of us wear when we’re feeling “less than,” and how they sometimes serve us well:

1. Confidence

Ever tell others “I can do this!” while your inner voice is whispering “no, you can’t”? It can be incredibly powerful to let that mask of confidence win the debate. When you project confidence, others believe you and often mirror it back. When that happens, you can begin to see yourself as competent and able in others’ eyes, and you may be more likely to follow through and behave accordingly. Before you know it, you’re demonstrating to yourself and others that you’re capable of things you previously questioned.

2. Calm

Have you ever kept yourself from losing control in a crucial situation while still feeling anxiety or fear? People in positions of authority (parents, teachers, coaches, executives, law enforcement) are often required to project calm in times of chaos and confusion. This doesn’t necessarily mean they ARE calm. They assume the mask of calmness because it is what the situation dictates and because they know if they don’t, things may get worse. Sometimes it can be enough to have just one person suggest that calm is the way to be; others will typically follow suit. This can be a useful strategy in diffusing a tense or stressful situation.

Have you heard the expression “fake it until you make it”? When we take on the characteristics we’d like to possess, practice them with regularity, and change our behaviors in order to better match those traits, we may find ourselves becoming that which we originally pretended to be.

3. Certainty

Do people look to you for decisions or direction? If so, you probably don’t ALWAYS have all the answers. However, it can be comforting to others if you convey a sense of certainty when you make choices. It’s important to wear this mask carefully. You don’t want to speak with authority on topics you know nothing about—better to honestly share that you have no expertise in certain areas. But if a decision about how to move forward is needed and you’ve got a pretty good idea about how to do that, make your choice or give your opinion with a degree of certainty and pay attention to how others respond. They will likely listen more carefully, and be more likely to pledge their support, than when you give a response couched in skepticism or doubt.

4. Cheerfulness or Enthusiasm

Ever arrive at a party telling yourself you’ll stay only an hour and end up being the last one to leave after a wonderful evening? You likely started out wearing the mask of cheerfulness or enthusiasm while actually wishing you were somewhere else. Along the way, you became engaged and more present, and in so doing discovered that you are having fun. Sometimes we force ourselves to do things we’d rather not, or challenge ourselves to be personable when we’d rather be off on our own, and we are surprised and pleased to find we can connect in a positive manner, and we become energized as a result.

5. Caring/Compassion

Have you ever demonstrated interest in something when you actually felt indifferent about it? Sometimes what happens is you start out simulating that you’re an interested party, or simply going through the motions because you feel pressured to do so, but before you know it you’ve connected with someone or something that impacts you in unexpected ways. This might happen as you enter into a simple conversation, or you begin volunteering because others you know are doing it or because you’re expected to do so, and then you find yourself falling in love with the mission or cause. It’s not uncommon for people to discover that they care more than they originally imagined.

Have you faked one or all of these traits? Which masks have you worn, only to uncover those very strengths within yourself along the way?

© Copyright 2015 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Laurie Leinwand, MA, LPC, therapist in Denville, New Jersey

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • 16 comments
  • Leave a Comment
  • SiLaS

    SiLaS

    October 20th, 2015 at 2:38 PM

    There are days when I have to wear the confidence mask a whole lot in my job, not because I actually do feel that way but to hide the fact that there are days when I honestly don’t know what I am doing.
    I think that the mask does hide that pretty well but there are times that I do live with the fear that I am going to be figured out for a fraud.
    Ok so I’m not really a fraud but you sort of get what I am saying. There are people there that are so much more talented than me and I don’t ever want anyone to think that I don’t deserve where I am
    Fake it til ya make it I guess.

  • sundee

    sundee

    October 20th, 2015 at 4:25 PM

    That extra little added layer of protection when you need it

  • Maisie

    Maisie

    October 21st, 2015 at 3:52 AM

    We don’t always like to admit it but wearing masks to cover the things that we actually feel is something that pretty much all of us do on a daily basis.
    I would like to think that for the most part I am pretty transparent with my emotions and who I am but I know as well as the next person that there will always be those times when you feel like you have to hide and cover up something else, and there could be some good reasons for having to do that.
    Such is life.

  • Liz

    Liz

    October 21st, 2015 at 7:32 AM

    I agree with this on some levels and then on others I don’t. I do feel like they can be there for force and protection, but could they not also be used to hide things, either from others or from yourself as well? I would not encourage you to hide that true self, be who you are and experience and cope with life as it is. It will be less that you have to deal with later on.

  • Jam

    Jam

    October 21st, 2015 at 3:17 PM

    I saw an interesting TED talk by Amy Cuddy who had investigated some of these masks and the physiological changes that take place with the body language that these masks use. Taking it a step further than the “fake it till you make it” to “fake it till you become it” I’ve had occassions where I’ve made it – but I’m yet to become it – well worth a watch though

  • kennedy l

    kennedy l

    October 21st, 2015 at 4:04 PM

    There will always be times when things have to be mind over matter.
    You tell yourself that you are feeling one way, and eventually that could be exactly how you do feel.
    Kind of the same thing with those masks we wear.

  • Rhoda

    Rhoda

    October 22nd, 2015 at 7:46 AM

    I love it! fake it til you become it… brilliant!

  • Creed

    Creed

    October 23rd, 2015 at 8:12 AM

    Nope, I am a man who has always shown his true colors and have no plans to change it

  • aqua

    aqua

    October 23rd, 2015 at 6:01 PM

    I think then given the above comments that we can agree ‘Fake it till you make it’ is healthy, as long as the mask you assume is not used to hurt, control or limit, and as long as you can paradoxically allow self honesty about your initial emotional reaction, ie mindfullness both of ones inner experience and of the masks one assumes, with the view to either master it or surrender to it depending on the situation.

  • Zane

    Zane

    October 24th, 2015 at 6:47 AM

    I only have a few people in my life that I don’t feel like I have to wear those masks with all the time, and that would be my wife and a few other close friends who have been with me for a long time. These are the people that I know I can always be myself with and who will not judge me no matter what. I think that it is good for anyone to have a support system like this in your life people that you know you can always keep it real with.

  • Lena F

    Lena F

    October 26th, 2015 at 7:25 AM

    so how am I supposed to know who is real and who isn’t if wearing a mask seems to be the societal norm?

  • aqua

    aqua

    October 26th, 2015 at 4:35 PM

    @ Lena.
    I expect you are wearing one too, thats kind of the point.

  • Lena F

    Lena F

    October 27th, 2015 at 8:53 AM

    Yeah I know that it is something that we all do, and the point was not missed on me. But I also think that we know when we are wearing those masks but you have no real idea about who else out there is feeling like they have to do the same thing. I try to keep things real, and would really prefer to be around others who prefer to do the same. I understand that there are going to be times when they offer protection, but don’t you also think that there are times when they offer more of an opportunity for deception. Just a thought.

  • aqua

    aqua

    October 27th, 2015 at 1:50 PM

    @Lena
    Absolutely! I touched on the need for self awareness and clear motivation in my earlier comment
    ‘I think then given the above comments that we can agree ‘Fake it till you make it’ is healthy, as long as the mask you assume is not used to hurt, control or limit, and as long as you can paradoxically allow self honesty about your initial emotional reaction, ie mindfullness both of ones inner experience and of the masks one assumes, with the view to either master it or surrender to it depending on the situation.’
    And in my take on the use of ‘masks’ in this case, is that its a form of strengthening ones resolve, rather than being incinsere.

  • Lena F

    Lena F

    October 28th, 2015 at 10:15 AM

    aqua- I agree that it can certainly strengthen one’s resolve- like others have said, if you go with it long enough then it can become your truth! And that can often be a very good thing for any of us! ;)

  • aqua

    aqua

    October 28th, 2015 at 7:32 PM

    @ Lena
    Heres hoping ! ;)

Leave a Comment

By commenting you acknowledge acceptance of GoodTherapy.org's Terms and Conditions of Use.

* Indicates required field.

 

Advanced Search

Search Our Blog

   
GoodTherapy.org is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, medical treatment, or therapy. Always seek the advice of your physician or qualified mental health provider with any questions you may have regarding any mental health symptom or medical condition. Never disregard professional psychological or medical advice nor delay in seeking professional advice or treatment because of something you have read on GoodTherapy.org.