We live surrounded by social constructs which influence our lives constantly. These social constructs are stories that tell us what is acceptable and what is not, what makes a person fit in and what doesn’t.
They are so embedded into our culture that it can be difficult to notice they are there. We have heard them countless times from other people, we might have even been repeating them to others without knowing.
For example, a social construct that is still very prevalent in Poland is that you need to have a steady 9 to 5 job in order to support yourself and be successful. Financial security is very important to us and it is no surprise considering our past communist history.
We also have specific social constructs to do with gender behavior. Men in our society are expected to be physically strong, responsible, rational, have a stable job and provide for the family.
Women in our culture traditionally take care of the house, their partner and the children. Nowadays, they are also supposed to have a career, while at the same time staying young, feminine and attractive.
The social constructs keep being repeated to us through media and people in our community. Just turn on the TV during the commercial break and you will see what we are expected to look and behave like. We hear and see those images all over again and it is no wonder that we want to fit in.
We try on the behaviors expected of us and some of us will feel fulfilled as a result. However, for some of us, those social constructs can feel like shoes that just don’t fit. If we want to travel and experience life, but we hear things like: “this person has already built a house”, “that person is getting married”, we might start feeling like we are disappointing our close ones for wanting to live our life differently.
We then have a choice to be our authentic self or to put on a mask. If we put on a mask, we will be accepted but might feel somewhat uncomfortable on the inside.
The masks we are wearing not only relate to the lifestyle we choose but also to our behaviors in relationships.
For example, if we believe we have to be kind and helpful to everyone at all times, we might be wearing a mask of a people-pleaser. If we never show our emotions and believe we need to be tough in order to survive, that is a mask of needing to be strong in all situations.
These masks will influence how we show up to others. If we never disclose our emotions, people might see us as cold and distant. If we are always kind and giving, people might keep asking us for more, as it looks like this is what we like doing.
You are putting on a mask whenever you are entering a role. And you might be so used to putting it on, it doesn’t feel like a mask anymore. It is just something you are, a part of your personality.
To find out whether you are wearing a mask or not, the question to ask is: are my behaviors actually serving me? Does the image I am showing on the outside reflect my needs? Am I getting what I need from others?
It takes some introspection and courage to admit we have been wearing a mask. It has served a purpose in our life. It has kept us safe. To shed is to let people in on our vulnerable authentic self.
I invite you to think for yourself. Do you think you have been wearing a mask and if so, what kind of mask is it?