Why do you Hide beneath a Mask?

by Teresa Leet

Accidently on Purpose.

“What Mask are You Hiding Behind? (non-COVID related)

I had a knack for reading a room and becoming who I needed to be, or who I thought other people expected me to be, at that moment. This way, I rationalized, I was able to fit in. My crippling thought, where this all began, was attached to my performance. If people saw my inadequacies, knew who I was, or that I struggled with self-worth, they would not want to be in my life. Who wants to be alone? Not me.

I learned that I was accepted, liked, admired, and even praised by performing well in school, sports, or relationships. This later became my kryptonite.

I stayed in unhealthy relationships beyond expiration dates, and I reasoned that the good outweighed the bad. Marriage was another matter entirely! Warning signs were ignored, and planned to marry twice were followed through. People had their expectations of me based on a false representation of who I was. I learned to pivot on a dime, make excuses for behavior that was unlike me, and recuse myself from embarrassment time after time.

So, I hid behind the air of confidence. My weaknesses, insecurities, and self-doubt would go undetected for most of my life. I was exhausted. It was time to release myself from the pressure of never measuring up. I was so attached to what other people thought about me that in a moment, I could go from happy to being depressed and back to happy again. Emotional whiplash. Literally. The heck with keeping up with the Jones, I couldn’t keep up with myself.

I learned to avoid the reality of “me” by wearing a mask. This is where the “accidentally” comes from. I accidentally discovered that wearing a mask “on purpose” served a purpose: self-preservation. The problem is, wearing the mask (which was interchangeable: Ms. Popular, Ms. I’ve got it ALL Together, Ms. I Know Everything, Ms. Confident, Ms. Compassion, Ms. Nurturing, and Ms. Performance) avoided the realities of experiencing life. My dominant coping mechanism was to drown out the noise of being unworthy, less than, or not belonging. The mask, however, was not the only coping mechanism.

I did what I had to, to display an identity that covered my insecurities.

Until one fateful day, I decided to show my true colors to the One who knows me best was the only thing I needed to be concerned with. I risked losing a fan base because I was now operating from a not-so-popular opposite of my former self. I flirted with self-integrity. I was getting raw and honest with myself. Ouch. I would embark on a discovery mission of the most vulnerable kind. Opening wounds that were suppressed for decades, buried deep beneath the surface, that kept me in denial of how my past decisions impacted my future self and how they held me captive from healing.

I started from the fragile state that I did not have it all together. Who was I? Who was Teresa Leet, http://www.chasingeasy.com, without the fanfare, the career, the income, the home, the kids, the husband, the cars, etc., etc., etc. I was intent and settled on taking that journey.

In elementary school, I was voted “most likely to succeed” in middle school, I was awkward, and I became popular again in high school. I learned lessons that would not manifest until years later from each growing stage. One common theme throughout all of life, starting in elementary school, that carried me through until my thirties early forties was a success through performance. It was all about making an impact for me. The decisions I made that were life-altering were based on my need to appear solidly put together.

I made decisions that were convenient and self-serving. I did not consider how others might be affected by my choices. At 15, I had an abortion (44 years ago!), and the pain I wrestled with was internal and debilitating. I would not find fulfillment until my life was full of meaning.

Do you know the difference between satisfaction and fulfillment? I didn’t. It turns out satisfaction (as my foot is tapping to the beat and I sing the lyrics, “I can’t get no Satisfaction” Rolling Stones), is self-centered, whereas fulfillment is others-focused. My life turned around once I broke down and surrendered my life to my Creator! When I say turned around, I am not implying “easy.” Quite the opposite. I understood I was not afraid to admit I was wrong or even say I was sorry for the first time. I still struggle with “You’re right.” (Mostly in the husband setting, “Can I get a Witness?” might as well stick with the Rolling Stones theme. LOL)

We all have had moments or seasons that we are not proud of. What we do with our experiences determines how we receive the lesson/teaching. Leadership guru John Maxwell said it best; “experience is not the greatest teacher evaluated experience is. Reflective thinking turns experience into insight.”

The lessons I learned, the insight I gained, and the freedom I experienced are captured in my memoir, http://www.chasingeasy.com. Progress, not perfection, is now my mantra.

Know that you are not alone. You are loved and cherished. You matter. You are enough.

May my words that grace the pages of my book usher in hope, and it will grip your heart and release forgiveness on the way to true healing.

We need you. #chasingeasy

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