M is for Mask: Desperately Seeking Authenticity (#atozchallenge)

photo from flikr -
duncan's photstream

If you have ever been to Venice, you would have seen the amazing Venetian masks on display. The masks originated in Medieval times in Italy due to the religious oppression that then existed. Behind their masks people in Venice used to feel free to indulge in certain activities frowned upon by the religious authorities. They were made of paper- mâché and decorated in gold, feathers, gems, ribbons and fur. Today they are used in street carnivals. They look ornate and distinctive, but pick them up and they feel fragile. You will find them everywhere in Venice.

Many people wear masks, even when it is not carnival time. These masks are not decorated or colourful like the Venetian masks, in fact they are almost invisible. However, the principle behind them is the same, namely they make the wearer feel free to indulge in certain activities or engage in certain ways.

When I was in my early thirties, a highly ambitious thing and knee-deep in my career, I would put on my career woman’s mask. Back then I felt uncomfortable talking about motherhood, parenting, really any out of office life at all for fear of being judged not committed or dedicated in what was a male dominated environment. I would wait until either a male colleague or client would raise the subject of family or children first and then I would be comfortable in contributing. Talk about golf, rugby union and beer was highly accepted, sadly I was not into any of those.

I am happy to say that times appear to have moved on, both in the industry and in society in general. The other facet to this of course is that I have reached middle age, am comfortable with my skills and ability to deal with professional issues and have less need to hide my authentic personal self from my professional self. My intuition and bull sh*t detector also seem to have been honed over the years to the point where I am happy to rely on them in real life. I am going to leave the digital world out of this discussion as that world is a whole other ball of wax.

Apart from my professional mask, I’ve never really felt the need to have any others. However, I have known people who are not this way, some have more masks than Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt have children. Just when you think you’ve managed to peel one off, another one is revealed. It must take an astronomical amount of energy to maintain these masks and then do they show different masks to different people, or have a different order in which they are removed for each person?

The vibe of an interaction between two authentic selves is totally different to one where one of the protagonists is wearing a mask. There is usually a real energy to such an interaction, which may not always be positive if you are disagreeing and I’m ok with that. I’d rather have an authentic interaction than one muted by a mask. It’s why I seek out people who are themselves authentic.

I am done with masks, masks represent fear. The next one I don will be at carnival time hopefully either in Rio, Venice or New Orleans and be covered in jewels, feathers and a whole lot of colour.

What’s your experience with mask wearers?

[Photo credit: picture of taking off the mask by frostmaster on deviantart.com]

21 thoughts on “M is for Mask: Desperately Seeking Authenticity (#atozchallenge)

  1. Love Love Love this post! I am emailing it to my daughter. She just finished her paper on this subject and did some healing in the process. At 18 years old, she has no idea how many times in her life these Masks will surface. Enjoy your jewels and feathers, I’m sure they will be beautiful!

  2. Great thoughts.
    I always have problems with this topic because I think I misunderstand the definitions used.
    would you say that masks mean being a different person, or just allowing different parts of your self to show depending on the situation or the company you’re in?
    My conversations with wy my wife are very different from those I have with my drinking buddies, but are all still me.

    • I understand what you are saying. To me it means being a different person for reasons to do with fear, fear of non-acceptance, fear of rejection etc when you might have otherwise acted differently. I think having a different conversation with your wife and your drinking buddies is a slightly different proposition. Presumably you do it out of respect for each of your wife and drinking buddies and you are comfortable with all of those facets of yourself.

  3. Great post Judy! I too have worn a mask or two in my time. Being on the road has given me the freedom to toss them all aside and it feels wonderful! I agree with you that part of what lets me shed them is the growing sense of contentment with myself and life that comes with age. :-)

    • I love this comment, Wendy for a whole lot of reasons. Some day when the child raising is done, I would like to be on the road too and have that freedom. I’m going to be reading all about your road trip adventures with that dream in mind.

  4. Masks and lies only last for the moment but truth and sincerity remain for all time. I don’t like invisible masks, they cause havoc in other peoples lives. I do however really enjoy masks employed in theater productions and films, they’re fun and interesting.
    Bless you Judy, may all who come to know you be amazed by your authenticity, Geoff.

    • Thanks Geoff. I saw this wonderful saying the other day, something along the lines of “there are only these two absolutes: the sun and the thruth” which reinforces what you are saying.

  5. Wonderful image! We are all capable and guilty of wearing masks. I agree with your comment about middle age, I have learned from my detectors and now don’t bother much with covering up what or how I am thinking. We moved, as empty nesters to another part of the country and I found that the move also gave me great liberty to be honest. Everyone was new and had no history of how I was twenty years ago when, I, too, was in the midst of donning my business suit, and toting my briefcase and day planner. I love being fresh faced in my jeans and tee shirts and honestly my hot flashes keep me from donning any masks lately! Good read today, thanks.

  6. Pretty much mask-less at this stage of life. I’m trying to visit all the A-Z Challenge Blogs this month. You can see mine at myqualityday.blogspot.com

  7. I agree that masks can be used in a negative and destructive way such as when someone is sweet and lovely to your face and then stabs you in the back as soon as you are out of sight. I hate that type of mask.

    However sometimes a mask is also a refuge. So perhaps there can be a positive side to masks too.

    A colleague once said to me that an introvert has a cupboard full of masks and is adept at knowing exactly when to use each one. I have often found that encouraging such as in instances where I have had to stand up in front of a meeting and make a presentation, which as an introvert makes my heart pound and my hands shake.

    • Yes, that old confidence mask is not such a bad one. I think where I have the trouble is where people use masks as a refuge to either postpone or refuse to deal with other things or never take it off.

  8. Masks = liars. OK. Adds up and all the rest of what you have mentioned. Except introverts.

    On the other hand, can masks not be professional gambles? Are you ready for this Baxter? Can you handle this Baxter? Know anything about this Baxter? etc. Yes, of course, is the answer, through the skin of my chinny-chin-chin. To save a job, lie BUT then go DO it!

    • Tess, I understand that… see my confidence mask comment below. How many times was I taught in business never to show weakness or seem unconfident. These days, I’m far more inclined to say “I don’t know”, but I’ll do my best to find the answer”.

    • To me being authentic means being who you are, not so much about revealing every detail of your life at the first couple of meetings. But you are right, when you add trust into the picture… amazing things can happen.

  9. Breath of fresh air. Thank you, so completely appropriate to everything I think about these days at the ripe ole’ age of 47! Namaste’

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