Who’s behind the mask?
I joined an art therapy group at my local cancer support centre during my cancer treatment. One of the exercises we undertook in class was to create a mask. It was an interesting exercise, prompting us to examine the masks we wear, the ones which hide our true identity. Many of us wear a social mask, although we weren’t born like this. Growing up, we may have created an image of ourselves that is different from the person we believe we are. We may have felt for whatever reason that we had to hide our true selves behind a mask and we fear being found out, fear having the mask removed and our true selves exposed. Hiding behind a mask makes the risk of exposure less frightening. Over time however, maintaining this façade can become a burden. We may lose our ability to be spontaneous and enjoy the moment, it may limit us in what we can achieve, we may become too dependent on the opinions of others, and keeping up appearances at all costs. Some of us may wear more than one mask to reflect our different roles in life, and this in itself can become exhausting.
I have observed that for many people, a diagnosis of cancer has been the prompt they need to take off their social masks, and be who they really are. They come to a realisation that life is too precious to hide or limit our true selves. Did you find this was true for you? Did an illness or significant life event prompt you to examine the mask(s) you wear? Did you take off your social mask? How did that feel? And in the end, did you put back on your mask, or perhaps a new mask? Or did you see this as an opportunity to stop wearing your mask for good? Did you perhaps decide that life is too precious to waste pretending to be someone or something you are not?