HEALING SERIES: PT 1-Removing the Mask/Authenticity

I was running on empty, giving myself away in pieces. I was giving people the “best” of me. I gave the pieces that I thought were “ok” and “put together” and deemed “acceptable”. The other “pieces of me”, those undesirable pieces, the “not so put together pieces”, the pieces of me that needed work...I kept to myself. After a while, the only thing left was brokenness. Not much of me was left to give. It was at that moment, I realized the gravity of wearing “the mask”
— D. Sanders

I chose the word “heal” as my personal intention for this year.   Healing requires you to strip down and look at the reality of who you are.  In the past, I typically hid pain or speed through the healing process.  I put Band-Aids on situations, feelings and experiences.  Real healing requires removing the mask and seeing yourself as you are right now.  That can be jarring and unsettling to some but for me it was the starting point.  My healing began in the midst of my brokenness.   Not to be confused with the hats we wear or the roles we play, the mask is different. The mask is the person you attempt to be or the person you desire to be.

 I definitely have a superwoman complex.  My life is very structured and organized.  I tend to react negatively to things that do not go according to my plans.   I’m a planner, a list maker, and a lover of spreadsheets, organizers and calendars.   My “type A” personality can be a double edged sword.  On one hand, I take great joy in getting things done and checking them off of my “To Do” lists but I’m also someone who tends to take on too much and exhaust myself.  I’m the queen of burning the candle at both ends.    I like to have it all together or at least I like to appear that way.  I wear the mask of the “got it all together super woman”.  How many of us wear this mask or “cape”?  Many times it’s not even by choice, it’s a necessity and the only way things get done. If we don’t do it, who will?  The “got it all together mask” was hiding my growing fatigue.

I was tired, exhausted and in some situations I was angry.  As a single, working mom of three, time is my most valuable resource and when I feel like I’ve wasted it, I feel like I’ve missed out on something else I could have been doing that would have been more productive or beneficial to my life.  There were people, things, and situations that I had invested my time in that came back empty.  These were the “dead” things in my life.  Those dead situations and relationships irritated and upset me.  I felt like I had wasted time in relationships that wound up being fake when my time could have been invested in something real; wasted time working for people who did not appreciate or recognize my talents when I could have spent my energy on making my own dreams come true; wasting time battling a man in court to take care of his children when all I wanted was my freedom.  I was not only drained and exhausted but I was angry about it.   Do you know how many other things I could have occupied my time with? 

Artwork by: Thomas Blackshear

Artwork by: Thomas Blackshear

I found myself putting on the mask that so many women wear every single day, the “I’m fine” and “I got it handled” mask; but underneath that mask was a woman who was exhausted, frustrated, sad, resentful, and hurt.  I was questioning my judgement and my choices.  Why did I continue to invest in things that had zero return?  Why were so many things in my life in disarray when I thought I had a fool-proof plan?  Why couldn’t things just run smoothly in my life? I was tired of the bumps in the road. To the outside world, I was doing it all, working, writing, raising my kids, enjoying my friends…I was happy or at least made sure I appeared to be.  Inside I was exhausted and mentally frustrated.   I was constantly analyzing and questioning what I could do to make the best use of my time and limit the potential for being hurt.  I was wearing the mask to hide my fear of failure, my fear of being hurt and my fear of not being enough. 

Women are rarely afforded the opportunity to be vulnerable or weak. We are expected to be strong and practically numb to pain all of the time. I found myself asking, “When can I take a moment to break, put myself back together and heal? I was tired of “getting over” things...I wanted to heal some things.
— D. Sanders

The truth was I had not slowed down to grieve the "dead things" in my life  and I refused to acknowledge that I was hurting and feeling inadequate.  I was dealing with so much mentally and emotionally that it was draining me and weighing me down.  Life doesn’t stop because you are going through things.  It didn’t matter if I had a broken heart, health issues, stress or financial problems.  Life was still moving. My children still needed their mother, bills still needed to be paid and I still had jobs to do.  The question for me became, how do I manage all of this when I’m an emotional wreck? How do I continue to be a present and emotionally connected mother to my children when I’m hurting?   How do I create quality art when I’m in a dark emotional space?  How can I be a good friend when I feel inadequate and not enough?   I was tired of wearing this mask but it felt like I had no other choice.  I was suffering from a lack of balance in my life and I needed a break. My cup was empty and I hadn't take the time to replenish it. I needed to take a step back emotionally, mentally and get myself together.   I needed to acknowledge I was hurt, feeling inadequate and afraid?   That admission was extremely hard for me because I hate to admit when things have gotten the best of me and I equally hate admitting fear.    I’m strong willed and strong minded so admitting I was in this “dark space” was extremely difficult for me.     I was in a holding pattern emotionally and mentally. 

Sometimes, You gotta call a thing a thing
— Iyanla Vanzant

I retreated into my “safe space”.  I prayed, meditated, I spent more time reading and writing and I cried…every single day for months.  I had to grieve some stuff.  In order to purge what was inside of me, I had to be real and honest about calling it what it was.  I had to acknowledge the hurt and the fear.    I also had to acknowledge the fact that I had been complicit in my own life.  I had “allowed” some things to happen.  Whew…the truth!!!    I was holding so much inside and I had to get it out. I had to go through all of these emotions and this time I couldn't rush my way through it.   I had to sit with it, acknowledge it, analyze it, question it, get angry at it, grieve it, forgive it and release it.   There were lessons I needed to learn in the midst of all of this.  I had to learn to reach out to the ones who loved me and be honest with them about what I was feeling.   I had to open up and allow people who I knew truly loved me in.  That required two things I struggle with, trust and vulnerability.   I just had to “grow through it”.   

You gotta take the lessons and leave the baggage
— Rhonda Hight, President/Owner Let's Talk, LLC

Healing is a process that takes time but the moment you are truthful with yourself is the moment you can begin to live free of the masks.  There is freedom in authenticity. The masks we wear can become heavy.  Honesty, Acknowledgement, Accountability, Forgiveness, and Release=Healing.  I had no idea how much weight I was carrying until I took the time to release it.


Thanks so much for reading!  Please comment, subscribe and tell a friend! I’d love to hear your thoughts. Join me for my next reflection on Healing, “Forgiveness without Absolution”!


D. Sanders