– Shel Silverstein, Masks
I first came across this poem the other day on Soul Anatomy and fell in love with it. It’s a poem about two souls who never found one another because they spent their lives hiding their ‘true colors’ and wearing a mask. I think this piece really resonated with me because for so much of my life, I tried to wear a mask and hide certain things about myself that I was ashamed of, such as my anxieties, sensitivity and introversion.. to name a few.
Up until recently, I had always looked at the fact that I am a highly sensitive person as a fault. I would judge myself for getting upset over little, petty things and I would envy those who would flaunt their seemingly “f*ck-it” attitude. It wasn’t until I took a class in Theories of Personality last semester that I discovered the positive side of being a sensitive person. I learnt that highly sensitive people are particularly thoughtful, loyal and thrive in conditions that are more on the calm/quiet side. I also learnt that sensitive people tend to be insightful and more aware of subtleties than others, mainly because our brain processes and reflects on information more deeply. After learning some of the up-sides of being a sensitive person, I was able to accept that it is part of who I am and that it’s okay to show it. It also is a useful trait to have when studying psychology!
Another thing I always tried to hide was any negative emotion I was feeling. I grew up associating sadness with weakness and being a burden to others. Therefore I would try very hard those feelings. I would either isolate or do something self-destructive in order to cope. However now I like to think that I am on the road to learning that feeling sad, or any other bad feelings is a part of life and always will be. Sadness doesn’t translate to “bad” or “weak”. Sadness it is a normal, human feeling that is inevitable. Sadness, and other painful emotions – while unpleasant – change us and help us grow and become stronger. Instead of isolating and repressing these feelings, it is beneficial to open up about them to those I trust and in therapy. If we suppress negative emotions, they will subconsciously come out in uglier ways.
I think the overall message of this poem is that when we hide who we really are, we are running the risk of never being seen by those looking for us. If we wear a mask, we may never find real love. Being vulnerable can be terrifying, especially after being hurt in the past.. but I think it’s so important to learn to open up and be vulnerable to those we deem trustworthy. Blogging is something that has really helped me with this, as well as helped me become more comfortable with who I am as a person. When I post a blog, I feel as if I’m being real, not wearing a mask. I am putting myself out there and I do it because it is therapeutic for me, and it also connects me with others who can relate, which is what the human condition is all about, right?
Don’t be ashamed of who you are. Don’t hide behind a mask.