Recognizing the Mask You Wear

Breaking Free from the chains of double consciousness

Oscar Wilde, the Irish dramatist, once said, “Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.”

Occupying a minority status in any society, at any time in human civilization, has always required wearing a proverbial mask to ensure your basic survival, your invisibility was your saving grace.

Frantz Fanon conveyed this in his book Black Skin, White Mask, masks can be imbued with a double meaning, a barrier that at once empowers and disempowers – conceals and reveals. For many of us moving through spaces that we perceive as unsafe, the self-imposed invisibility may create a false perception of safety. Sadly, in the short term, wearing a mask may protect us from bodily harm, long-term, the mask does not ward off the lesions and wounds seared into the soul.

Fanon conveyed it well. Wearing a mask perpetuates a double consciousness that while appearing to serve as a protective shield, gradually disintegrates into the face, melting into the soul of the individual wearing it. The clear lines of where the mask begins and ends are no longer easily perceived.

While masks have been worn by various civilizations and cultures for collective self-expression and individual self-protection, they were always meant to be worn temporarily. For these tribal cultures, masks were worn during rituals, both to convey shifts in consciousness, for example, good or evil, to ward off evil spirits or even take on and become the embodiment of a spirit. Through the mask a person could be both disempowered and empowered, at once, stripping the self and subsequently absorbing the power of an “esprit” spirit to connect with a source greater than oneself.

However what happens when a person who has been wearing a mask for so long, truly believes the mask is good for them? What do you do when the mask is no longer an accessory but becomes a necessary coverup that must be worn daily? When the person wearing the mask deeply believes taking it off would cause more harm than wearing it?

Learn How to Elevate Your Value: Taking One Thousand Courageous Steps

Girl with Blue Hair and Sunglasses

 

“I’ve been at my job for seventeen years. I have trained those who became my boss and have consistently been passed over for a promotion. yet I can’t bring myself to leave.”

– True Confidence, Workshop Participant

One of the participants blurted this out, tearfully sobbing during a workshop I recently led at a local funding organization. I asked her if it was ok for me to touch her shoulders. She nodded, whispering “yes” and I stopped the presentation. I had to hold space with her, acknowledging that she was being heard and seen. What she needed was beyond the scope of the workshop, so I encouraged all the women in the room to turn their attention to her for a few minutes.

Perhaps this moment would empower her to take a small courageous step; the day she would make the decision to do something differently. She had already taken the first step – showing up to the workshop, allowing herself to be vulnerable. As the other women sat closer to her, I knew only a journey of self-discovery could re-ignite the flame in her soul to dream again and take action on her life – she needed to find her inner heroine to not let this be the bitter story that would define her life.

Embracing Silence To Find your Inner Heroine

She had arrived at the workshop late and I remember feeling the energy in the room shift immediately. I knew her spirit had been crushed so much that I could not recommend taking bold actions so I emphasized taking small courageous steps to begin her journey. All the women in the room gave her the permission to leave that job, releasing her of any guilt she had of leaving her colleagues behind.

We all suggested taking a few small steps, knowing in our wisdom, along the way she would begin to shed all of the fear, guilt and shame she had been carrying in her body for seventeen years.  These small steps would elevate her value in her own eyes, which was the most crucial thing that needed to happen to her in the coming weeks.

Consider this Framework, I shared with her and the other women, when taking One Thousand Small Courageous Steps to elevate your value and self-worth.

Step 1: Seek positive feedback from people who care about you

· Solicit it from others

· Use it as an opportunity for growth

· Avoid negative self-talk

Step 2: Invest the time in developing your Emotional Intelligence

· Understand how to balance self-awareness and social awareness.

· Minimize constant self-policing.

· It’s not always about you…

Step 3: How resilient are you? Understand your Adaptability Quotient

· How quickly do you adapt to change? How resilient are you?

· Constantly scan your horizon for new opportunities.

Step 4: Do something that makes you uncomfortable once in a while

· Avoid always trying to be perfect.

· Take small risks.

Step 5: Find professional support

· Find a life and health/ wellness coach to become emotionally and mentally fit.

· Seek out support groups in judgment-free environments that will help you grow.

Consider joining networks that support women to empower themselves like Ellevate Network’s global platform. “Ellevate Network’s Mobilizing the Power of Women Summit brought together an intentionally diverse and committed group of people to take action towards equality. Download the Mobilize Women Action Guide here and subscribe to the Ellevate newsletter.

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