Who's Beneath Your Mask?
Each Halloween, people try to decide which costumes to wear and which personalities to adopt.
Essentially, we are trying to figure out who we are going to pretend to be. Wouldn’t it be interesting, though, to ask ourselves who we are already pretending to be? Are we pretending to be happy when we really aren’t? Are we pretending to be scared, or that we know it all, or that money isn’t an issue, or that it is? Are we pretending to be in love? Are we faking our satisfaction? Are we faking our dissatisfaction for the attention it brings? Maybe a better subject than who you are going to pretend to be is this one: “Who are you when you stop pretending?”
Our authentic soul essence gets so covered up with masks and facades (the ego’s defense mechanisms) that we often totally lose sight of who we really are and what we really want. We adapt to what we think others want, we mold ourselves to try to get love, we play so many manipulative games with people to get our needs met that we completely lose touch with our true divine essence.
When you consider the qualities of someone with high self-esteem, they are very similar to small children: confident, risk-taking, adventurous, authentic, eager to learn, happy, loving, lovable. Most children are closely aligned with their esteemed self because they haven’t yet had life experiences that separated their egos from their spirits. Small children know their divine essence. All they do is an authentic expression of who they are. The good news is that these qualities never go away; they just get covered up. Our access to them gets blocked.
Here's a graphic analogy. Imagine that “who you really are” is a glass full of sparkling, clear, pure, bubbly water—refreshing and delightful. Then, your life experiences and the people around you begin pouring dirty, grimy motor oil into your glass. Since oil floats on water, a mucky layer of oil forms on top of your beautiful, pure effervescence. Now when you look at yourself you see the oily muck instead of the clear, refreshing water, and you begin to believe that this mucky layer is who you are. Who you really are is still there, but your access to it is blocked.
Then, because you don’t like the way this oily muck looks or feels, you begin sprinkling glitter on top. You want other people to see the glitter instead of the muck because, hopefully, they won’t hurt you more by pointing out the muck. The glitter is the world of pretention and protection—smiling when you don’t mean it, perfection, superficiality, materialism, faking, anger, control, withdrawal, even substance abuse—there are a myriad of masks that we wear.
The pure, bubbly water is covered up by the oil, which is covered up by the glitter. Who you really are is covered up by who you think you are, which is covered up by who you want everyone else to think you are—the façade you present to the world for self-protection.
The irony here is that we think our glittery ego layer will protect us or make people like us more, and maybe even make us like ourselves more. So we all go around bumping into each other, glitter to glitter or muck to muck (that is, ego to ego). And while the glittery ego layer may sometimes protect us from feeling more pain, it also “protects” us from feeling more love. Our inauthentic connections with others leave us feeling isolated and lonely. In actuality, ego, in both its damaged, mucky form and its bandaged, glittery form, is what blocks our access to self-esteem—to heart, to truth, to connection, to intimacy, to love—every time.
So this Halloween, rather than contemplating new layers that you can add, see if you can peel some away. Perhaps you might have a “come as you really are party”…and meet your friends for the first time.
A Spiritual Workbook for Children & Families
Someone to Watch Over Me is a sweet little gift for connecting with one's inner spirit, for giving voice to one's inner being, and for connecting one's essence with Guardian Protectors or Guides. Simple and inviting enough for children, lucid enough for adults...a precious offering."
Edward Espe Brown, Zen Priest, Author of The Tassajara Bread Book et al