Last week, I spent Halloween in --by choice -- avoiding the neighborhood trick or treaters, watching old episodes of "The Tudors," and silently reflecting on the anatomy of the mask.
Halloween (and the surrounding festivities) are the only truly acceptable times (with the exception of Purim or Mardi Gras) to be out and proud wearing your mask for all the world to see.
But for me, and for many of you, we wear masks all the time.
Maybe it wasn't the cat mask I have planned for that evening, but the mask I've often worn is that of the people pleaser.
Many of us are far more emotionally sensitive than the world wants to see or receive. The last year of my life has often felt like I've had a few dozen open wounds, all being doused with hot sauce at the same time. We as humans have no choice but to wear that mask, to do whatever works to avoid what makes us feel pain or self-doubt or discomfort.
For me, my biggest insecurities come in feeing like others others have misunderstood my good intentions -- that they have rejected me or left me out. I don't react well to feeling as if someone I love has turned their back on me -- you may say it's my Achilles heel -- and feeling powerless in some situations has led to putting on a mask of the people pleaser, hoping to appear strong and happy and protect my true self whenever possible. My real self. The self that really truly wants nothing more than everyone to love me.
The people-pleaser may feel familiar to many of you. It may be you, or it may be someone you know well. If you are like me -- a people pleaser -- you do whatever it takes to make the people you love happy. By making them happy, you hope that they may accept you. If they accept you, they will be less likely to emotionally attack you. Sometimes you realize that this is not an authentic situation -- sometimes you have feelings that tell you to protect yourself and your heart and get away -- but you you shove those feelings away. Those feelings are the ones that you need to mask. It's the reason you are wearing that mask in the first place.
It's all masks. And it all comes at a great cost - of knowing who I actually am.
I speak of myself -- and my own mask -- but you probably have your own. It may be a one of avoidance or anger or even happiness. You may accuse one mask wearer of wearing a mask just to project the reality away from you and your own mask. Because that mask getting torn off could be the worst possible scenario for you. And you may have a few masks. I have been known to mask sadness by being the center of the party or fear of failure by being manically perfectionist. They all are masks.
This only works short term. It CAN only work short term. You never actually feel like you belong, because deep down you know the person you are putting out there isn't your true authentic self. My most basic need is to feel connected -- and yet I've acted in a way that often makes that impossible.
The thing is, you don't know that. I've worn some masks for so many years that I didn't know my true self or even more true feelings. And -- let me tell you, my friends - being unfamiliar with your true self is the worst kind of disconnection you can ever imagine.
Plus, it's exhausting.
On Halloween -- when so many of you were out donning your masks in the name of revelry -- I made a resolution to remove my own mask. It's been a process for a few months now and I won't lie, like all love addicts, I've had a few setbacks.
I don't want to stop pleasing people -- I don't want to stop being a good person and showing all the love I have to give. But I am learning to be responsible for my own happiness first, and everyone else, second.
It's all about the power of choice. To choose to meet the needs of others first, or of myself. To have the courage to say no without feeling guilty. But if saying yes makes you resentful or bitter, isn't it way easier to say no -- without guilt? We need to stand up for ourselves, and we need to be strong.
And if we are wearing any masks? On Halloween or any other night? Let it be a sparkly cat one. Because we don't have any time for anything else.