We all wear them. We move through life alternately putting on and taking off masks throughout the day. Who are we going to be in this moment? What does this occasion demand? Where is the gap between what I feel on the inside and what is needed on the outside? I don’t really think it’s a bad idea to have a few masks to cover the rough and tumble of everyday life. The truth is I need to tuck away a few things in order to get through my day, and you probably do to.
I know that when the mask and the reality underneath are incongruent, I probably need to notice. In my real life, I have the freedom to be strong or weak, needy or giving, a hot mess or a powerful leader as the situation demands and my heart allows. I can step in and out of the responsibilities of my life without betraying the complexity of my own heart. If I am in a season of struggle, I can step away for a bit and gather my strength and perspective. I don’t have to always barrel through and hold the mask in place.
In my work, though, I do not always have this same freedom. In a conversation with friends recently, I realized that the distance between the mask I wear to do my job and the unrest in my heart are deep and wide at the moment. In the workplace, I am responsible and competent, able to solve problems and provide guidance to complex situations. But I also feel unclear about the future, conflicted and discouraged by things that are out of my hands. This creates a dissonance that I’m struggling with.
I imagine that if I had been doing this for decades, I would have already found some techniques for handling this kind of conflict. Instead, I am stumbling through. I am committed to respecting my own heart, to maintaining my integrity, and to walking with humility and love. All of these things feel vulnerable and a bit out of control at the moment. I am unpacking my experience through prayer and good counsel and trying to learn from this process… but it takes time and patience.
In the meantime, I’ll wear the mask and do the work at hand. Letting myself off the hook and just acknowledging the struggle is a win. Now I have some work to do. I’m committed to living authentically, but I am going to give myself some grace. I’m going to offer my own heart the same compassion I’d offer yours. I’ll cover the wounded parts in public, and keep on moving, for now. In public, I’ll use the “competent professional”, “I’m fine”, “No, really I’m doing well” masks to protect my tender places and give myself some time to figure out the rest. In private, I will continue to slip off the mask and honestly assess my heart and give myself room to make some changes.
What masks do you slip on as you move through the day?