Every October 31st, we went a-begging for candy. And what fun it was: Putting on makeup and wigs and masks and whatever else was required to become a werewolf, princess or superhero.
By the time I was about 10, I preferred to be any character that didn’t require wearing a mask. More specifically, those plastic masks with a string of rubber stapled to it to hold it in place, circa 1980.
Yeah, they camouflaged one’s identity – Hey, who IS that?!? – and, so they did the trick. But, they also were pretty uncomfortable. The staples pulled on my hair, and the hard ridges of the eye cutouts dug into my skin. I remember fidgeting with my mask the entire time I was trick-or-treating, constantly pulling it down, away from my eyes.
Yet, the most committed among us kids wore those masks until our trick-or-treating was all done and we were back home, emptying our loot onto the kitchen table so our parents could sort it all out. We tolerated the irritation and annoyance of constantly adjusting the masks for a few hours, all in the name of acquiring as much candy as possible.
The candy was our payoff for enduring the discomfort of those plastic masks.
Now, I think of the masks we as adults willingly wear for other kinds of payoffs. Like masks of smiles, to hide emotional pain that plagues us. Masks of bravado, to shadow self-doubt. Perhaps even masks of agreement with others, to avoid conflict and to please others (ohhh, that’s been me).
Those kinds of masks may seem to serve a purpose for the moment. But, wearing them is actually tiring, isn’t it? And the truth is: They only hide whatever’s really underneath temporarily. Our masks of choice don’t heal wounds or help us grow in ways we most need to grow. Only honesty with ourselves and willingness to work on ourselves will do that.
The first Halloween I ditched a plastic mask was glorious. I felt relief. I was free, able to move around so much easier without having to constantly adjust a bothersome face mask. No more indentations in my skin where those eye cutouts were. And no more strands of hair pulled out by the staples holding that rubber string in place.
Could people recognize me without the mask? Sure. Did I still get a whole lotta candy? You bet I did. And, even more candy than usual, because neighbors knew exactly who I was.
It may feel uncomfortable to ditch the masks and just be yourself. But, you’ll be glad you took the risk. The payoffs – genuine peace, self-worth, and more – are way more gratifying.
Your Turn: What mask do you wear?