We are so accustomed to disguise ourselves to others that in the end we become disguised to ourselves.
~François Duc de La Rochefoucauld
Mardi Gras celebrations are known for extravagant parties, parades, beads, mayhem – and masks, liberating revelers to anonymously partake in the day’s festivities. Figurative masks, however, in everyday life can severely impair our sense of emotional wellness.
How many times have you been asked, “How are you?” and you found yourself mustering a smile and “I’m fine” when inside you were really feeling quite sad or worried? While it is not always the right time, person or place to divulge your feelings, and in many ways our society discourages doing so, unmasking your emotions also offers many gifts.
It allows us to connect with our “true selves” and opens up opportunities to get the understanding and support we need from others. By identifying and communicating our feelings, we are better able to meet our emotional needs.
Not to mention, often times, emotional dishonesty requires more energy than emotional honesty and causes us to lose out on an authentic experience.
4 Tips to Unmasking Emotions
- Avoid exaggeration. Dramatizing our emotions is like the boy who cried wolf. We risk being ignored if we send out too many false signals. Only use words that are truly the best way to express what you are feeling.
- Avoid minimization. The flip side of the coin is withholding true feelings by saying things like “I’m fine” or “Don’t worry about me” which only furthers our sense of alienation.
- Make direct “I” statements. When communicating emotions, start with “I feel _______.” Be as specific as possible and describe the degree of the feelings such as “I feel a little irritated.” Avoid statements that begin with “I feel like you …” or I feel like…”
- Enlist a friend to keep you honest. Ask someone you trust to hold you accountable when they sense an emotional disguise.
If you’re finding it difficult to let go of your emotional façade and are feeling isolated from others, it may be helpful to talk about it with a counselor. Seeking professional help can provide a safe space to practice emotional honesty.
As a Maryland student, you are eligible for up to 12 free sessions of counseling in a 12 month span from the Counseling Center.
Dropping the mask and revealing your feelings to yourself and others allows for genuine emotional wellness and paves the path to, as Mardi Gras-goers say, “Laissez les bons temps rouler (Let the good times roll)!”