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Take Off The Mask, But Try A Costume

Halloween prompted us to think about the masks we’ve worn in life as well as the idea of “being ourselves.” There are definitely times when it’s appropriate to wear a mask, a face that we present to the world that only partially shows who we are. There are even times when a “suit of armor” is required to protect ourselves from the blows of judgment inflicted upon us by others knowingly and unknowingly. As life unfolds, and as more of these experiences occur, most of us begin to question the price of wearing these protective devices. Are these masks are still serving us or have we become trapped behind them? Do these shields really keep us safe or have they become tools for self-injury – no outside judgment required?

Consider using Halloween as permission to try two things. First, discard any guise that has become limiting or painful. Let yourself transcend the caricatured get-ups that are more about “shoulds” and expectations than truth and self-respect. Conversely, consider trying on some new costumes. Put on and try out ways of being that highlight different, new, exciting, and/or fun aspects of yourself.

Costumes can be liberating and provide us a means to move into and act out new roles, exploring new sides to ourselves. And the “costume” need not be elaborate! Any change, small or large will suffice. The key is to “wear” something to help you feel free to be something that is not typical for you. Here are some methods to assist you in giving costumes a go:

Literally wear a traditional costume to a Halloween event, a party, or even around the house to experience yourself as a different “you.” If wearing the costume while with others, notice how they respond to you, notice how you act – what’s different, what’s surprising, etc.?

“Act as if.” Which means that you act as if a particular thing were true. For example, act as if you are happy with who you are, imperfections and all – what would you do, what would you say, how would you carry yourself if this was true for you?

Put on a hat, stylish or goofy; dress in a color or type of fabric that is unusual for you; accessorize with a scarf, bowtie, jewelry, etc., that someone you imagine to be playful or interesting would wear. Use these items to help you become this other person – how would you feel, what would adventures would you enjoy if you were able to explore reality from this more upbeat perspective?

Self-Discovery Tool Number 65
Remove the masks and armor holding you back. Release the need to style yourself on the outdated expectations of others. Dress up as your best self, choosing guises that reflect the true you. Experiment by trying on new “costumes” – use Halloween as an invitation to play and uncover more about who you are!

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Are the Costumes or Roles We Wear Wearing Us?

Pirates, black cats, princesses, and vampires to name just a few of the costumes you may have seen on “trick-or-treaters” at your door last week. On Halloween you probably saw costumes that were homemade, some that were handed down, and some that were newly purchased. These costumes may have been very special and gratified a child’s fondest wish, or been thrown together in haste. All of them came with the basic premise that they were to be worn just for a night. If they didn’t fit right, made moving around a challenge, or failed to elicit the expected response, it was a disappointment, but not a big deal. After all they could be rectified with a promise of something better for next year.

Not so for many of us and the roles we have taken to “wearing.” How many of us explore with any regularity the idea that these might not be an ideal fit? How often do we question the continuing appropriateness of roles that were handed down or taken on to make others’ lives easier?

Take a moment to examine one or two of the key roles in your life using the dress-up metaphor.  Perhaps there is a way to better tailor existing ones or choose something new in the hope that you might find something with a better fit.

  • At the beginning of a challenging day, does donning the “costume” of this role give you strength and confidence? Does it offer features that make you feel at ease and ready for action or does living this role make you feel you uncomfortable and inept?
  • When you look in the mirror while dressed for this role, does the reflection show you at your best? Do you see the real you or does the role require you to hide your true self behind a mask?
  • If you were to ask others how it is to be around you when you are in this role would they report that the interaction was a treat? Does your presence energize them and help them fulfill their own roles or would they perceive you as just going through the motions without a sense of vitality or integrity?

Self-Discovery Tool 4/44

If you look at your roles do you see someone else’s expectations or dreams? Do you see something that once seemed great but now doesn’t match who you are? Or do you see a version of Frankenstein – something crudely assembled from whatever was available rather than consciously composed to suit who you are? Think about how you might set about reinventing (or moving beyond) the roles you play with a little time in spent self-discovery.  Show yourself you matter by seeking a custom fit!