by Ed and Deb Shapiro: Are you a fairy, a ghost, Batman, a pirate, witch, goddess, a favorite movie star, or a monster?
It’s that time of year when we don our masks and become whoever we want, or maybe someone we think we really are.
What aspect of yourself will you be expressing? One year we were two geisha girls in tight kimonos and white make up. For Ed it was a chance to experience the feminine; for Deb it was a moment of stepping into someone else’s shoes and realizing how restricted such a lifestyle can be, which made her confront places she was restricting in herself. Another year Deb went as a lotus pond wrapped in a blue sheet with pink paper lotus flowers pinned all over, while Ed was am Indian holy man in orange robes and a turban, so as not to take the spiritual journey too seriously.
Does dressing up in a costume enable you to act out your secret fantasies? One year we were invited to Dublin to be on Kenny Live, a popular Saturday night TV show, and we arrived at the hotel where we were staying to find ourselves in the midst of an over-50s costume party. We got stuck in an elevator surrounded by every type of she-devil you could imagine, and the fantasies were pretty outrageous! It was hilarious.
Does expressing different parts of yourself highlight parts of your personality that normally never see the light of day? Do you feel you’re releasing some pent up hidden part of you that you need to express?
Or does it show how you normally hide behind false images and labels, such as race, religion, or profession? We tend to identity with the content of our lives, yet beneath all the labels is our essence, that which we truly are. Can you find who is there without the masks or the façade, without all the many images of yourself? We so identify with the masks we may lose sight of what lies behind them. But the labels are only a part of us, not the whole of us, and we need to honor our whole being.
Try the questions below to get reconnected with who you really are:
Naming the Masks
Find a comfortable place to sit quietly. Have a pen and some paper with you. When you are settled, begin by making a list of all your big labels, the ones that are most obvious, such as race, age, mother, father, child, brother, sister, religion, job, profession, and so on. Build a list that would tell the outside world who you are.
Then make a list of all your personal labels, the ways in which you see yourself, such as your physical health, size and looks, then your emotional and mental labels, how you see your personality, strengths and weaknesses. This is a list that says how you see yourself and how you are seen.
Then make a list of all the parts of yourself behind the labels — the inner you that few people ever see. This may start negative, such as insecure, frightened, angry, sad, depressed, and so on. But then focus on the positive, such as caring, loving, generous, kind, aware.
Now read your lists through a few times. Can you find the real you, amongst the labels? Can you find a you that hides behind the masks? Are there ways that this inner you can find expression in your life? Write down any ideas on how you could bring this more hidden part of you into your life, so that you can begin to let go of the labels and the masks and live more authentically.
Do you find you are hiding behind a mask? Do comment below.
Ed and Deb are the co-founders, with Brian Jones, of RevolutionaryMindfulness.com. Join to get our newsletter, free meditation downloads, community support, and learn to balance your nervous system. They are the authors of award winning Be The Change. See more at Revolutionary Mindfulness.com and EdandDebShapiro.com