Masks Off: Disliked for Who You Are or Loved for Who You Are Not?

“Love takes off masks we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within.” – James Baldwin


Sadly, I believe that very few of us ever reach true intimacy. I believe most of us have enjoyed the temporary joys of dating and making out and other conventions of relationships. But so few of us will ever reach true intimacy. And the reason is simple. God has given each of us memories and emotions. And when those memories are painful and those emotions are hurt by people that we love, we make a decision – consciously or subconsciously – to never let anyone hurt us like that again. Unfortunately for us, making that decision does absolutely nothing to our stronger desire to connect with others.

After watching different movies about life in the penitentiary, I discovered that a man would rather be in general population where he is in danger of being shanked (stabbed) or violently sodomized against his will than to be locked up in solitary confinement. It is the worst punishment for even the most hardened criminal to be locked away from others – even though those others may have and may continue to hurt them. This goes to show that all humans were made for connection with other human beings despite how hurt they’ve been in times past.

So how do we cope with that cognitive dissonance? How do we love WITHOUT risking hurt? This post does not attempt to answer that question. The previous paragraph just goes to show that humans want connection in spite of pain. Yet despite our desperate need and desire to connect, why come so few of us achieve it?

I believe the reason we cannot achieve true intimacy is because our past hurts “force” us to put on masks. They don’t actually force us, but they terrify us enough to put them on because we fear what could happen if we do not don our masks. Our memories remind us how painful it was the last time we loved as we truly were. Maybe as a child, you reached out to Mommy for a hug and she pushed you away. Maybe you waited hours for Daddy to come home to show him a card you made just for him, only for him to wave you away and lock himself in his room without any greeting or acknowledgement. These simple examples represent profound experiences that shape us. They make us question ourselves as to why our parents don’t like or appreciate us as we are. So we try to alter our real, “unlovable” selves so as to prevent being rejected again for who we really are. We’d rather be loved for we are not than to face the pain of being rejected for who we are.

One thing about masks is that we continue to wear them because they work. If they didn’t work in getting us what we wanted, we would no longer wear them. So masks are effective in a sense. Another thing about masks is that they can be changed at any time – even several times in an hour. So if you meet four different people in an hour, you could act four different ways to make all of them pleased with them. If you felt your Mommy liked you smarter, skinnier, neater, and cuter, you worked on that mask and presented it to her. You saw it made her smile at, compliment, and hug you. If you felt that your Daddy liked you more accomplished, you worked on that mask and presented to your Dad a new you that was a star quarterback, a great tennis player, or a straight A student. And that made Daddy show you off and give you attention. While it is sad that some parents do not love their children unconditionally, it is a reality that must be accepted. And once you accept that you had demanding, perfectionistic parents, you have another choice to make.

You can choose to be disliked for who you are or loved for who you’re not.

And if you make the right decision, you will remove those masks and say, “HERE I AM! LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME, BUT I WILL NOT HIDE ANYMORE!”

Now let me explain some things. I am not suggesting that you don’t change anything negative about yourself and command others to love you as you are if who you are is abusive, offensive, and criminal. Don’t molest children, beat up people on the street, and call people outside of their names and then say, “Love me for who I am because I refuse to hide under my mask anymore!” By no means! But what I am saying is that you have to understand that if you are not intentionally hurting anyone, you do not have to change to make people except you.

Another disclaimer is that you also have to understand that people have expectations of adults. A newborn baby is expected to do absolutely nothing but eat, sleep, and poop. No one is disappointed in them for not knowing the alphabet. No one is shaking their head in shame because they are not walking. No one is scolding them for not changing their own diaper. So you must know that when you are an adult – especially a male – people expect you to work a job. Also, as an adult, people expect you to obey laws. Don’t be a lazy slob using welfare when you are able to work and then say, “Take me as I am!I refuse to work, and I will continue to rob and steal!” (If this is your attitude about not wearing a mask, I personally don’t expect anyone to like you.) But if you are a person who does not hurt others deliberately, who works a job to pay bills and whatnot, and who does not intentionally break laws or biblical commands, then you should not have to put on a mask to make people like you. Just doing those things makes you enough.

So back to what I was saying about intimacy. One cannot be intimate with a mask. You cannot feel someone’s face who is wearing a mask. You cannot know someone who is constantly lying to you. You cannot be intimate with someone who refuses to get close to you. That is because INTIMACY IS THE REMOVAL OF DISTANCE.

Think of intercourse. Intercourse is considered intimate because it is the removal of space between two physical bodies. In fact, not only is space removed outside of the body, but with the woman, the space inside is also removed. There is no distance between two people engaging in intercourse. The same goes for tongue kissing. There is no space left there. So it is intimate.

Well, that was speaking physically. Now let’s think emotionally. When you are truly intimate with someone, you remove all distance between their emotions for you and your emotions for them. They know how you feel about them, and you know how they feel about you. But if you hide your true feelings behind a mask, they do not truly know your emotions. So there is still distance. So there is no true intimacy.

Again, the reason we do not tell them our true feelings is because we fear they will stop loving us. But think of children and their parents. Younger children will tell their parent that their breath stinks because kids are brutally honest. But it doesn’t mean that they will stop loving the parent. We have to stop equating truth with abandonment. And if you do, just understand that those you were honest with who abandoned you were simply unwilling to be close to you. Doubtless, they’ve heard worse things from others that they continued to be in relationship with because they WANTED to be in relationship with them. But don’t let their rejection of you make you redefine the lovability of you. Just take their rejection as redirection to someone who WANTS relationship and intimacy with you.

We want so badly to be loved for who we are, but we learn to hate who we really are because who we really are – flawed – resulted in someone rejecting us. So we hate ourselves so much so that we forget who we are and begin to truly think this mask is the real us. But we must do the thing we think we cannot do. We must remove these masks and dare to be loved for who we truly are. The people who God has for us, will love us without them.

However, if you so decide that life with a mask is preferable to being loved as you are, carry on as you were. But just know that you are not in a real relationship. You are in a dance, an arrangement between a person and a mask.



Self-Sabotage: The Strange Fears of Love, Success, and Happiness

Doubt your doubts! Success, love, and happiness are on the other side of your fear!

There are three fears that I find the strangest. There are SO many phobias known to man. There’s no limit to phobias because as soon as a new one appears, they just add it to the list. There are some very strange ones like geniophobia – fear of chins, consecotaleophobia – fear of chopsticks, anablephobia – fear of looking up, and one of my person favorites, zemmiphobia – fear of the great mole rat. (these people fear that giant rats are plotting against them.)

But even with all those peculiar ones, I find three in particular even stranger than that. They are the fear of being loved, the fear of happiness, and the fear of being successful. I believe the fear of success, love, and happiness are even more common than the well-known fear of death, fear of failure, and fear of being disliked and disapproval.

I love this quote by Marianne Williamson:

“Our biggest fear is not that we are inadequate
our biggest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure
we ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
Your playing small doesn’t serve the world.
We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us,
and as we let our own light shine,
we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.”

From what I’ve read in different books, I feel as if the main reason people fear success is because they fear people resenting them because of it. People fear being an outcast NOT because they are disapproved of because of being a failure; people fear being an outcast based on being disapproved of for being A GREAT SUCCESS. I believe that just like plant seeds, we have potential to become as big as even a huge sequoia tree. But if we’re afraid of being a great, big sequoia, we’ll stunt our growth at the size of a bush or a blade of grass in order to fit in with others and make them happy with us. Let yourself grow to the full-size that God put in you to get to!

In middle school, I had some friends who didn’t do very well in school. I always did well in school, so the teachers asked me to be in the advanced program. But I didn’t want to leave my friends behind, so I stayed behind. I could have learned so much more and done better in college perhaps from the advanced learning, but I didn’t want to be an outcast. Even with people now, I oftentimes downplay my intelligence and skills so that they won’t resent me. I know that most people can appreciate others’ success, but haters do exist. I don’t let people know all of what I know because I feel that they may think that I think that I’m better than them when that is so not the case.

Next, from what I’ve read and witnessed, there’s the fear of being loved. Many people unknowingly have this fear. People with this phobia will test their girlfriend or boyfriend to see just how much they love them. For some reason, some people deem themselves as unlovable or at least unworthy of love, so when some guy or girl comes around professing their quote unquote love for them, they proceed to prove the boyfriend or girlfriend wrong and to prove their negative self-view as correct. Even if the significant other did love them, they make sure to scare them off with tests so that their self-view is secure regardless of how wrong and negative it is.

For example, some women will pick the DUMBEST fights with their guy, and if he lets them win and don’t argue back, then they say, “He must really love me!” But because they are still convinced that no one could possibly love them, they find another test the next day. You’d be amazed if people told you the type of things they did to test people. Some men will cheat on their girlfriends with some they both know and make sure that the girlfriend finds out about it just so that they could know if she did love him by sticking around.

Of course, we know that testing people like that is very dysfunctional and that no self-respecting guy or girl would hang around to continue in that dance of dysfunction. I learned that no matter how hard you try, you can’t prove to someone that they are lovable; they have to find out for themselves by knowing how much God and Jesus love them. When you begin to internalize that God loved you so much that He gave His own Son to die for you, you slowly start to realize that, “Hey! If the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe and the Originator and Embodiment of Love loves me, then SURELY I must be lovable! I’m going to start believing people when they say it unless they prove it otherwise!” One way you can tell if you think you’re lovable is if you can look in the mirror and say with 100% certainty and with a smile, “I AM LOVABLE!” Some people can’t even look at the mirror and look themselves in the eye and say that and others can’t do it without crying.

I learned from books I’ve read that some people fear love because they think that they may lose it in a dramatic way. They may fear that the person will die soon, that the person may betray and hurt them, that the person may humiliate them by leaving them, and/or that the person may be pretending to love them when they really don’t. You also may fear that if the person you’re in a relationship with REALLY knew who you were, they’d run screaming in the other direction. You may fear that if she or he knew your ugly childhood, your dysfunctional family, or your weaknesses, downfalls, and imperfections that they would stop loving you. So instead of all that risk, you may just decide to avoid love all together. So when you do meet someone that you could potentially be happy with, you may find little silly reasons to rule him or her out. You might say silly things like, “He has bad teeth, his feet are ugly, I don’t like dudes with long hair, she’s too tall, she’s too cheerful, etc., etc.”

All of these little requirements and standards for your boyfriend or girlfriend are really just subconscious ways to keep you single – to keep you from getting hurt and to keep you from being loved because, to you, being loved is risky and is against what you believe that you’re worthy of. This dynamic is also in play when women purposely or unintentionally choose bad men to date because they honestly feel that in their heart no one can really love them. So they think that an abusive, unfaithful man is what their unlovable self deserves. I noticed that girls who have good, loving dads in the home tend to go for good, loving men. But girls who have abusive or dead-beat dads tend to go for the same type of men. They learn at a young age that either no man can love them OR that every man has to treat them right because how things were with daddy.

And the last strange fear I mentioned is fear of happiness. This also applies to love and success sometimes because love and success add a lot of happiness to people’s lives. Some people fear happiness because they fear that as soon as they begin to really experiencing the joys and highs of it, something terrible will happen. I read that they believe that if they just stay unhappy, when they get that scary phone call that a loved one has died or that so-and-so has dumped them, they have no high point to come crashing down from because they are already on that low point. They fear happiness only because they know that happiness will not always be. Life is not all good or all bad. So they feel that if they celebrate too much of the good, it’ll make the bad feel even worse.

If you’ve always been poor, then you don’t have to worry about losing your job or going through a recession. But if you allow yourself to become rich, you can lose it all! If you have no close friends or family members, you don’t have to worry about getting hysterical upon the news of their death because you never had any strong and happy feelings for anybody in the first place. You would think that people would want to experience as much happiness as they can while they can, but that is not always the case. Some people are so used to being abused as a child that they never allow themselves to feel happy because they knew the abuse was coming sooner or later. How easily could you rejoice in having a report card with all A’s and E’s if you knew that when you got home, dad was going to be in his scary drunk mode and that mom was going to beat you senseless for no reason?

Some people self-sabotage when they feel themselves getting too happy. They have “happiness anxiety”. When they feel too comfortable with a boyfriend or girlfriend, they may pick a fight. They aren’t used to happiness! They’d rather feel unhappy without the anxiety than to feel happy with anxiety. Anxiety is arguably the worst feeling to have, and people do whatever they can to get rid of it – including sabotaging their happiness when it comes to romantic love, a good job, a great friendship, etc. Anxiety is fear of something that poses no immediate or serious threat, but fear of the unknown is one of the scariest fears. So some people will consciously or subconsciously ruin any chance of happiness because it gives them the creeps. They are in control as long as the sabotage their chances at happiness.

If we lived in a normal world, we wouldn’t have those three weird fears. We’d be glad about being successful. We’d be so happy to have all that potential just waiting to express itself in us. Imagine if Michelangelo had feared success because his dad or classmates or brothers might get jealous of him and begin to resent him? We’d be missing out on all his beautiful artwork. The same goes for athletes, singers, dancers, and actors. What if Michael Jordan didn’t play as well just so that his teammates wouldn’t think he was a show off and so that he wouldn’t make the other teams feel like losers? You can’t dumb yourself down or make yourself average just so that jealous people can be happy with you. You’ll please those fifteen people of your family and friends at the expense of pleasing millions of potential fans and admirers, not to mention pleasing God by fulfilling the big purpose He placed in you to fulfill!

If we lived in a normal world, we’d love to experience being loved. We’d realize just how lovable we really are. Babies in normal homes are loved unconditionally. All they do is puke, defecate, urinate, cry, scream, eat, and sleep, and yet they are the favorite beings on the planet of their parents beginning at the first few seconds of their life or before they’re even born. They don’t have to do anything to be loved. And as they get older, they should know that approval and love are separate. A parent can disapprove of their child’s stealing behavior and still love them 100%. But for some reason as we get older, we begin to make our “lovability” dependent on our approval rate; and if you are raised in a dysfunctional family with narcissistic parents, you’ll also probably have this tendency. But you need to realize that you are 100% lovable regardless of what you do or don’t do. Jesus died for us WHILE we were yet sinners, and He forgave His murderers AS they murdered Him on the cross! So this shows us that we are lovable no matter what we do. YOU are lovable. YES YOU!

If we lived in a normal world, we’d be happy to be happy! We’d live every day in joy until something bad happened. Then we’d recover from it and be happy all over again! But in this twisted world we live in, being happy is scary because it has a determining factor in how sad we can get. It’s like a bride refusing to be TOO happy on her wedding day just in case her groom gets cold feet and doesn’t show up. In a normal world, all brides would be ecstatic on their wedding day until the very second she finds out her groom isn’t coming; in a normal world, brides wouldn’t keep their happiness level at a 5 instead of a 10 just in case he doesn’t show.

So these are the three strangest fears to me. I believe that everyone has experienced them to at least some degree unless you were raised in a very normal, loving family. Realize that God created success, love, and happiness for us to EXPERIENCE THEM – not to RUN AWAY FROM THEM!