I Wear a Mask

maskWhile at the ACFW Conference last week, I realized something one morning: I wear a mask. In fact, I was carefully putting it on with each curl of hair and each brushstroke of my makeup. I am a very shy person and have a hard time going out and meeting people. But I can’t live in my hotel room, so I have to go out. And so I put on this facade because it gives me courage.

Now some of you who met me at the conference probably think I’m not shy at all. But that’s because I was ready. I was all tucked in and tidy, with my clothes carefully ironed and each hair in place. But as I prepared that last morning, it hit me what exactly I was doing. I was putting on my mask. I was hiding the deep emotional upheaval I was going through at home. I was covering up the bags of sleeplessness brought on from the months before. I was masking my lack of self-worth with clothes that hid who I was.

If you were to come to my hotel room that night, you would have met the real me. The one just out of the shower with wet hair and baggy sweats on. The one baring her heart to her closest friend. The one who struggles with how she looks and fears having a panic attack when meeting people. That woman never set foot outside her hotel room.

Don’t get me wrong, I think doing one’s hair, wearing makeup, and dressing one’s best is not a bad thing (and you want to look professional at a conference). But when I looked in the mirror as I dabbed on some concealer (what an appropriate term, right?), I realized I was placing my mask on so that only the part of me I wanted people to see would be seen.

So why am I writing this? I think we all wear masks, masks that cover our fears and insecurities. And I’m not sure how to live without my mask. Some things are not for everyone to know. And some things I’m ashamed of admitting (like I am very insecure about my looks). But I am thankful for good friends and an amazing husband who’ve seen me without my mask and love me anyway.

I’m not sure if I will ever be able to live fully without my mask in this lifetime. Then again, I am finding the older I grow, the more comfortable I become in who God has made me and the more I trust in Him.

How about you? Do you wear a mask? What are you afraid to reveal about yourself? Who or what has helped you to lower that mask? God? Family? Friends? Or are you still searching for a safe place where you can take the mask off and be who you are?


20 thoughts on “I Wear a Mask”

  1. Thank you for being so transparent, Morgan! My biggest fear is that everybody will find out I’m a fake. I’m not a professional writer, I’m horrible at grammar, I have no idea what I’m doing. I’ve just been lucky. That’s all. And yet, I’ve published 6 books. I don’t understand other than God has been very good to me.

  2. Masked. Fully. Most of the time. The pen name makes it easier at writer events outside my local area, but sometimes the artifice feels so… icky.

    Thanks for sharing, Morgan. With you.

  3. Thanks for sharing your struggle, Morgan. I used to be extremely insecure about my looks. I wouldn’t leave the house without makeup on, hair perfect, and matching clothes. Then the unimaginable happened. I was diagnosed with breast cancer three years ago. I cannot explain the devastation the “C” word brings. Over the last three years, I’ve lost my hair to chemo, lost so much weight I looked like walking death, and lost a breast. I clung to God for dear life. After two years of fighting, I am cancer-free. Staring death in the face put a lot of things in perspective. I’ve realized that I am happiest when I’m comfortable; no makeup, t-shirt and my favorite sweatpants. I rarely wear makeup and my hair stays up in a ponytail. I dress up when it’s appropriate. Life is too short to worry about what everyone thinks of me. It’s not my business, anyway.

  4. Thanks for your post and honesty Morgan. I absolutely agree – I’m an extroverted introvert and seemed to have two masks at ACFW: “that Aussie guy” and “Genesis finalist”. Speaking as an unpublished newbie, you’re in a room with so many great authors and can feel a bit like you’re not worthy because your work hasn’t yet found a publishing house. I spoke to countless first-timers who thought that. Sometimes it’s just hearing God say: “You’re here because you’re you, not because you’re Ted Dekker/Jim Rubart/Brandilyn Collins Part 2” that gives you enough confidence enough to let the mask slip.

  5. I wear a mask, but it’s one of shyness. People who meet me in public don’t realize that if I’m completely comfortable I can talk way too much. i hide my randomness, and a lot of my interests. I also hide the messy hair and clothes of every day life.
    And some times i feel like i’m putting on a good girl act though It is the real me.
    And on-line I feel fake on occasion because I use a pen name and I try to keep myself more focused. I try to present my best side and please people.

  6. Mask for sure! For years I have suppressed my feelings and emotions, and God has been slowly setting me free, setting my tongue free, and drawing me out of myself. The journey has been long and hard. It’s only been in the past ten years that I have discovered that I have likes and dislikes. It’s like living a second childhood! I struggle a lot with my emotions and feelings, and tend to withdraw so that I don’t say something I’ll regret or “become a burden” to others or be rejected or whatever is going through my crazy mangled mind. As far as taking the mask off, I’m learning, trying. I have a few people that have cracked that shell, one being my husband. But layers! I must be an ogre. Ha! Something that I’m afraid to reveal? I don’t like looking in the mirror? I don’t know. I can easily point out my faults: people pleaser, hate asking for help, anger issues, insecurities, etc. I can make light of my parenting fails. But when I’m in the midst of the storm, I clam up.

    I think there is a time and place to take off our masks, learning when and how is the trick.

    Thank you for sharing something so vulnerable with us.

  7. Morgan, thanks for sharing so vulnerably. I certainly didn’t perceive your mask when I met you at the Gala. I’m sad we didn’t get some more time earlier in the conference to chat. Earlier on in the day, I loitered nearby when you were chatting with Patrick Carr to introduce myself but the 2 of you appeared to be quite engrossed so I didn’t want to interrupt.

    I think most of us wear masks of some sort. I enjoy meeting new people and rarely struggle having a conversation with someone new. In fact, I actually thoroughly enjoy meeting strangers. But I hide behind the fact that I work on the principle that “everyone likes to talk about themselves” so I simply ask questions and then off we go. Ten minutes later I’ll move on knowing that almost the entire conversation was about the other person. Sure I’m generally interested (seriously, I am) and figure the other person is more interesting than I am.

    I trust the emotional upheaval at home has now settled.

    Morgan, you should read Jim Rubart’s latest. Much of it is about this very topic.

  8. Having had the pleasure of chatting with you at the ACFW conference on three separate occasions (the last one on which you graciously permitted yourself to be photographed with me) I saw you as a friendly, professional author who also projected a shyness and humility that put this hyper-introvert quite at ease.

    As Chief Engineer for WNKJ Christian Radio for 35 years I’ve attended various broadcast conferences and conventions over the years. 35 years ago, I was paralyzed at the idea of even going. 25 years ago I was fairly comfortable with attending but as you describe rarely left my hotel room except for a scheduled class or to wander more or less anonymously around the exhibit floor.

    However in the last few years my mask has chipped away to almost nothing and if it will help I’ll share with you why.

    You mentioned upheaval. In the fall of last year I went through a major upheaval–so much so that I learned from a cardiologist that I saw after I failed my annual EKG that I’d had a “silent” heart attack from the stress related to it. In the midst of that upheaval I decided to do everything I could to make the situation as palatable as it lay within me to do so. I am the kind of person who normally just internalizes things rather than face confrontation. However a crisis point ensued and with the counsel and prayer of trusted Christian friends who were familiar with the situation, I confronted the issue. As a result positive things came out of it. It only happened because I left my mask at home that day and opened up and defended myself and, by extension, my friends from my innermost being.

    Life circumstances tend to chip away at the mask. For example, I have always told my bride of 46 years that, socially speaking, she is my saving grace. Anywhere she goes people just love her so they manage to put up with me on her account. However, she now has crippling osteoarthritis and due to other medical issues cannot have replacement surgery at the present time. She rarely leaves home at all now except to go to the doctor so I have had to fend for myself socially. Whereas before we could go somewhere and folks would naturally gravitate to her and I could just dissolve into the background, I had to start interacting on my own (And I actually found that I was enjoying it!). Had she been able to come with me to the Conference I might have backslidden into my old ways–partly because I still retain a little of that part of the mask but mostly because you would have fallen in love with her and forgotten about me altogether.

    Twenty years ago I started writing a book. After a short time the work languished. Six years ago, I was stirred up to pick up that work and begin again. I rewrote a couple of chapters I had written earlier and wrote a few more. I also wrote a novella length Christmas story set in that same story world that had been on my heart for five years and was especially so in the fall. During the writing of the novella I started having roving joint pain. In February of the next year while attending the National Religious Broadcaster’s convention in Nashville, TN my right hand swelled so that my knuckles could not be distinguished from the rest of my hand. Then it got to where the pain was so great and I was so crippled by it that my only decision at any given time came to be whether or not I really needed to get up out of the chair I was sitting in. Nine months later the malady was diagnosed as Rheumatoid Arthritis. You tend to forget about the mask altogether in the face of all-consuming physical pain.

    Deep sorrow also tends to make you forget about the mask. Our oldest son was a type-1 diabetic at 11 years old who by the age of 41 had lost his own kidneys, lost two different transplanted kidneys and was on long-term dialysis for the second time when he died from a blood infection that set up in his dialysis port. In 1997 we lost our home and all of our belongings in a flood and I thought that was tragic. But when our son died just short of his forty-second birthday (two years ago this past August 17th) even that event became just a minor annoyance. I would not want to go through that again nor wish it on even my worst enemy (if I had one) but I’ll say this…in it’s wake there is something different about me that I would not know apart from the experience. There is a patience that is rarely ruffled by my now severely pot-marked mask (major upheavals to the contrary not withstanding).

    I certainly hope that God spares you from such things as I just mentioned if you have not experienced any of them as yet. However there is one other thing that you probably will not be able to avoid and that is the passing of time and time will chip away most of the rest of your mask. As you alluded to earlier, as you walk with God and anticipate your departure to be with Him (as I am doing at age 64 with a couple of different diseases vying with each other to dispatch me to my heavenly home) you realize that your mask will not go where you’re going. You also realize that all of the people you know–even those who appear to have it all together–will also be without their masks. (Because we all wear them here!) Earthly beauty will fade and life in a fallen world will extract its toll on your person. However by then you should be able to look back at your life and at least begin to discern the pattern of the tapestry the Lord is weaving in it–warty masks and all. And knowing He has loved you through it all you will step out from behind the mask and just be content to be you for the time remaining for you to do so.

    So much will you be free of that now decrepit old mask you’ll be able to (as was my case) walk up to a charming and attractive young author you had hoped would be attending the ACFW conference and thank her for her books and blogs that meant so much to you through the very dark days you’d just come through. Why, you might even get up the nerve to ask her to pose with you in a picture.

    Oh, by the way, if you’ll accept some fatherly-type advice (the kind I would give to my daughters and granddaughters)… the part of your mask pertaining to insecurity about your appearance–go ahead and chip that part off and throw it away. It has no business being there to begin with.

    1. Thank you so much for sharing! You’re right, the older I get, the more that mask is being chipped away, but sometimes I fall prey to the world’s whispers instead of my heavenly Father’s. Thank you also for coming up to me and introducing yourself. It was wonderful to meet you 😃

  9. Morgan, you may have hit on a theme more common than you realize. Someone once said that each of us is three people: who we are at work, who we are with family & friends, and who we are when alone. We don’t necessarily have to be as open with the whole world as we are with a spouse or with God. (In fact, I daresay it would be a mistake to be as totally open with the whole world as with closest loved ones.) The fact that we have a private side isn’t necessarily bad. Not all facts about ourselves are meant for the whole world. I’m thinking there’s a difference between not allowing strangers intimate access to our soul and trying to impress others by pretending to be something we’re not. To be a blessing to others, we sometimes need to step out of our comfort zone. I don’t love public speaking, but I do it for the sake of others. That might be a mask, but I think the Lord is okay with that if I’m loving Him first, others next, and willing to forget about me for a while to glorify Him and encourage others. It was good to see you in Nashville. Blessings to you, my sister!

    1. You’re right. And not only can we be a blessing to others, we realize we are not alone in our thoughts. I’ve been blown away with how many people resonated with this post, and I almost didn’t write it!

  10. Morgan in one way, your writing breaks my heart. I have seen a daughter walk thru panic attacks, I have several granddaughters that have and still think they aren’t beautiful, that goes through anxiety attacks . Even when we walk with our Lord, sometimes we need the help of a physician and counseling. Please know that you are beautiful, you have talent in writing, I don’t know any perfect wife or children. We all need our Lord even with our Masks. You did good in your trip and mixing and meeting with other authors. I don’t see your Mask, I only see Morgan, My Pastor’s wife, mother of four children and a new friend at church. If you ever need someone to listen or just sit with you and be quiet, I can do that. You are loved Sandra

  11. Wow. Thanks for this. I was going to give a bit of my own “testimony,” so to speak, but when I tried to write it up, I realized it’s much more complicated than I thought. So thanks for the brain nudge. ❤

    And instead of a lengthy story, I give you this lil' comment: Masks. We all have them, some more transparent, or obvious, than others… 🙂

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