By Elizabeth Aylott Pope.
Halloween is right around the corner, filled with pumpkins, black cats with arched backs, candy and creatures! As you prepare your child’s costume (or your own!), pause for a moment. Take a look at the plastic masks on display – whether skeletons or superheroes, monsters or fair maidens – and consider for a moment:
We all wear masks
Whether it’s 31 October or not. Some of these masks are more useful than others. You might wear a protective mask of Avoidance, or a Functional mask to help you navigate a tricky situation in your life. The Happy Mask lets you project outward contentment and ease when you’re having a tough day. The People Pleaser Mask can be insidious, and the Anger Mask prickly, but both accomplish the same thing – guarding your vulnerability and helping you feel that you’re getting through your day a little easier.
Putting on a mask is natural; we all do it. It’s part of living in a society and managing complicated human emotions. In Japanese, the concept of social masks is handled particularly eloquently. Honne and Tataemae describe the contrast between how someone truly feels and what they want, and the public façade created through behavior and manners.
The difficulty is that masks preclude intimacy.
Feeling connected is a basic human need, but we can’t achieve that while wearing a mask. You may be not want anyone to know that you are having a hard day, but by covering it up, you miss the opportunity to feel better by sharing how you feel. You also may miss the chance to discover that the person next to you is feeling the exact same way, and help each other.
Perhaps even worse is the fact that you may wear so many masks for so long that you lose touch with who you authentically are and what you feel. That’s an incredible loss: to yourself, those who love you, and, frankly, the world.
The first step forward is to acknowledge that we all wear these masks, and be willing to learn what’s going on behind it, for yourself and those around you.
Be aware when you are covering up how you actually feel or what you truly think, and ask whether you really need to. There’s a huge difference between being polite to strangers despite feeling tired, and denying that you’re tired to your friends in favour of wearing the Super Mum mask.
It’s okay that you’ve been acting happy when you’re not. It’s even more okay for you to say that you’re upset. Accepting your internal experience and sharing it with others brings you face-to-authentic-face with whatever you’ve been avoiding. This can be terrifying, but it will also help you develop coping skills, ask for support from others, and give support to those around you who probably feel the exact same way!
Validating how we feel to ourselves and receiving validation from others is incredibly powerful. You get to choose when a mask serves you, and when it keeps you from connecting with others and with yourself. Intimacy is an act of courage: Let yourself be seen.
© Take time to BE YOU.com
By Elizabeth Aylott Pope.
If you’re a parent, especially a mum, and you’re breathing, you probably feel guilty about something. Whether it’s about keeping the house clean enough, working or not working, breast or bottle feeding, how much time the kids spend in front of the TV, whether they have too many or too few toys… the list is never-ending. Whatever choice you make as a mother seems to generate guilt.
It’s hard to escape the image of the Mother we SHOULD be that takes up residence in our minds, and to constantly compare ourselves to this ideal. How do we ever measure up? The answer is not to become a perfect, flawless, domestic goddess, Stepford wife and Mum Machine. The answer is to learn to let go a little, and recognise guilt for what it is, and what it is not.
At root, guilt is simply a feeling, along with the hundreds of others we feel on a given day. Like any other emotion, guilt is valid, and can be useful when addressed mindfully. We can learn from it, rather than let ourselves be controlled by it.
When guilty thoughts pass through your mind, you get to choose what to do with them. Sometimes, guilt can point the way to what you value. It always shows that you care. Let yourself feel what you feel, then ask yourself three questions:
1. Did you really do anything wrong?
Giving an extra hour of TV time so you can take a bath = not wrong. Remember the airplane adage: You need to put your own oxygen mask on so you can take care of others. Ask yourself, if my best friend told me she felt guilty over X, would you think it was justified? Probably not.
2. Could you actually control the outcome?
You can get your child to brush their teeth, but cavities still happen. There are simply things that are out of the most caring mother’s control.
3. Does it matter?
Mismatched socks, toys on the floor, disagreements… these are all normal parts of life. If you and your children are relatively uninjured and still speaking to each other at the end of the week, you’re doing your job.
Now that you’ve put your guilt into perspective, turn to it as a friend. Truly. What is your feeling trying to tell you?
In sum: You care. You feel guilt. Let yourself feel it. Ask yourself whether it’s warranted, and what it’s telling you. Take care of yourself, and remember you’re not alone.
© Take time to BE YOU.com
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