What is the mask?
The mask is the outer expression of who you are. It is also called the persona. Your mask makes up much of what you might think about when you think about “you.” How you choose to cut your hair, what you wear, and how you connect socially are all a part of the mask or persona that you choose to put out to the world. Sometimes the mask gets a bad reputation. New age rhetoric and self help books tell us to be authentic and to be our true selves. Some spiritual traditions emphasize dropping the illusion of the self for a deeper connection with the spirit. Let’s also consider the benefits of the mask.
How is it useful?
The mask is a useful and important part of who we are. At its best, the mask is an outward expression of who we feel ourselves to be on the inside. It can be the creative material of our deeper expression. When our mask is in alignment with our deeper nature, it feels authentic and is fun to play with.
How does it get in the way?
On the other hand, when we overly identify with our mask, and think that it IS who we truly are, we live a life of subtle or not-so-subtle anxiety. We suffer from feelings of emptiness and feel a profound loss of meaning. Our defenses are grounded in our mask. When we live in these defenses, we can find ourselves caught in the drama of life, fighting often, or feeling the victim.
What is the true self?
Our deeper nature exists as the part of the self that is differentiated from the oneness of everything, but fundamentally expresses our essence. This is often called the true self or the core self. This is distinctly different than the no self that is discussed in Buddhism. The no self is when we are able to completely step outside of our personal identity. In this space we are able to connect with the infinite. There is a lot to learn from this experience of the no self. I find it is the true self that helps most people live fully and create a life of meaning.
How do we connect with it?
As I mentioned, we can live our lives believing our mask is our true self. Often times, this illusion only gets dismantled when we have significant crisis that pushes us to question how we have come to see ourselves. As our mask is challenged, we go searching for something else and this search can lead us in the direction of our deeper nature.
We do not need to wait for crisis to begin our journey. Some of us feel a call to look for something deeper and more significant. Some of us are fortunate to have maintained a strong connection with our deeper nature. Others of us might experience a generalized sense that there is more to our life than what we have previously lived. But regardless of how we start, the way that we get there is by challenging the hold of the mask, dismantling the beliefs and emotions that hold us to experiencing the world through this limited view, and learning how to express our deeper nature through the filter of our mask.