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Who is That Masked Woman?


We asked visitors to Oprah.com whether they ever feel as if they are living behind a mask. These are some of their responses:

A friend once told me that your inner self is reflected in what you like to collect. She was shocked when I told her that I collect masks. I grew up in a family that owned a resort; we lived above the restaurant. As a teenager, I was often told to come downstairs to help out, and my parents would say that by the time my foot hit the last step (no matter what my mood), "you'd better have a smile on that face!" I learned to hide my feelings at all times, to become a people pleaser. I still feel as if no one knows the real me. My husband of 20 years says he does, but I'm not sure. I still collect masks.
—Sandy Sheehan
Hayward, Wisconsin


Yes, I wear a mask. I wake up every morning and dust my dreams off of it so I can put it on and face the world. It's my fear shield. As long as no one can see what's underneath it, I can always be the terrific person everyone wants me to be. Sometimes I forget to take it off, and I lose myself to the mask. I am now on a journey toward finding out who is under that mask. Why is she hiding, and why is she afraid of being found out?
—Allison Neally
Seattle, Washington


At work I am professional– in a good mood, upbeat and supportive. At home, I try to project a positive attitude and help my kids plan their futures. I rarely let my family know when I am depressed or how I worry about the future. When you have worn a mask for so many years, how do you finally take it off?
—Virginia Reynolds
Lake Villa, Illinois


At is very rare for me to be without my mask of contentment with my life. I've been afraid that if I drop it, no one will want to be my friend. But a couple of weeks ago, I started a new job in which I am able to use my true talents and feel more like myself. I am even somewhat comfortable showing my vulnerable side to a few of my co-workers, being honest with them if something is new or past my comfort zone. What a liberating experience!
—Tiffani Smith
Vancouver, Washington


Wore the mask of the perfect daughter, sister, wife and mother, but I was not truly happy. Two years ago, I was having a disagreement with my husband and I raised my voice slightly. He corrected me by saying, "Not in front of the children." I was suddenly aware of the masks we were wearing, even as parents. I asked myself, "Why not argue in front of the children? This is real emotion I am feeling." From that very moment, my life started changing and I began the slow and steady process of giving my true self a voice. I am now determined to acknowledge that what I feel is more important than what other people think. I'm also teaching my two boys, ages 4 and 7, to acknowledge and express their feelings– both good and bad. I realize I sometimes wear the "perfect Colleen" mask just to feel safe, but I have learned to dislike that side of me. I am on my journey toward full self-awareness, and it's both challenging and liberating.
—Colleen Higgins
Southampton, New York


More Ways to Get to Know Yourself

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