For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience, that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God.
2 Corinthians 1:12 ESV
You’re out in public and you catch a glimpse of yourself. Maybe when you see your reflection gliding by a shop window or in the rearview mirror, or when you check your teeth for spinach after lunch. Today, squint a little harder. Is the you you’re showing people really you? Or does your image feel a little disguised? A little distorted? A little masklike?
God tells us who we really are, but it can be hard to absorb, especially when fears hit. When pain or uncertainty push in, we forget. So we slap on a mask as a defense to hide the fears that we aren’t enough—pretty enough, rich enough, strong enough, smart enough. The fears that we don’t have what it takes, we aren’t one of the cool kids, the lies and harsh words people have spoken over our life are true. The fears that we’re out of our league, inadequate, unqualified. We hide our pain. We hide our suffering.
Do you struggle with any of these things? Me too.
Which masks do you go for? You might need a whole closet of them, as each is suited for a particular situation. Here are a few of the most versatile.
- The Superiority Mask. This could look like lashing out or criticizing, trying to make other people feel smaller because you feel small and misery loves company. But you can never rise up by cutting other people down. It doesn’t achieve what you intend.
- The Smiley-Face Mask. This one projects everything is cool, even though you’re crying underneath. Often comes with the “I’m fine” defense, pretending sticks and stones don’t hurt and acting as though you don’t care what anyone thinks. But it is only a veneer covering up all the sadness within.
- The Fifty Shades Of Grey Mask. Ramping up your sex appeal is another coping strategy. Going for ultrasexy outfits or pumping up your guns to get a Baywatch body by summer. You’re seeking validation of your attractiveness, hoping for the approval that comes from being noticed.
- The Funny Guy/Gal Mask. This is my big one. I need people to laugh, to think I’m amusing. I’m the class clown. If you turn everything into a joke or make self-deprecating remarks, this could be you. Humor serves as a deflection to divert attention away from what you feel insecure about.
- The “I’m So Holy” Mask. People who hide behind their religion brag about what they’ve done for God—for example, their service, their giving, how many Bible verses they know. Jesus responded to this directly: “You can’t keep your true self hidden forever; before long you’ll be exposed. You can’t hide behind a religious mask forever; sooner or later the mask will slip and your true face will be known” (Luke 12:2 MSG). We mistakenly believe God’s blessings are determined by our behavior, but the truth is that his blessings come first, completely undeserved, and that is what helps us change our behavior. It’s called grace. And it changes everything.
- The Clone Wars Mask. Trying to be like everyone else. It’s like being in middle school, only it becomes more expensive as we get older. For instance, how much of our credit card debt comes from trying to stay on track with those in our peer groups and keeping up with the Joneses?
- The Zombie Mask. Numbing ourselves. Consuming drugs and alcohol, viewing pornography, overloading on social media, or compulsive shopping are like putting a zombie mask over our emotions. Why feel sad when you can have an instant hit of dopamine from Amazon Prime? The problem with numbing is that, to quote Brené Brown, “We cannot selectively numb emotions. When we numb the painful emotions, we also numb the positive emotions.”
- The Gold-Plated, Diamond-Encrusted Mask. Compensation is the classic response to insecurity. It is famously demonstrated by Napoleon, who made up for his height with exaggerated bravado. Compensation looks like constant name-dropping, one-upping, bragging about your accomplishments, and turning everything into a competition. It’s not only draining to those around you, but it’s exhausting to keep up false pretenses.
It’s ironic that we put on masks in hopes of finding love and acceptance, but people can’t love someone they don’t know. What they’re falling in love with isn’t you; it’s your mask, a superficial version of you, a costume you’ve carefully curated.
What you wear to obtain, you must wear to retain.
If you get the job with the mask, you have to wear the mask every day at work. If you get the relationship with the mask, you have to wear the mask whenever you’re with that person. “Fake it till you make it” is sometimes good advice, but when it comes to being fake as a way of covering over your insecurities, you never actually make it. If you fake it, you’ll have to keep faking it.
Here’s the real kicker. When you put on a mask, you are masking yourself from God’s blessing.
You know masking tape? How when you paint a room, you first have to tape off the light switch, the ceiling, the floorboards? The paint only goes where the tape is not. That’s why it’s hard for God’s blessing to reach what you’ve covered over. God constantly seeks to shower you with grace. He wants to cover you with favor, to coach you with his love, to give you his best and his blessings. He wants your cup to run over. He wants to anoint your head with oil. He has been dreaming about it from before the foundation of the earth. But he can’t use who you wish you were, only who you really are. Your mask is holding you back.
Don’t miss this! You are unique. You are beautiful, a work of art. You are God’s poem. His masterpiece. You are what he thinks, not what you think.
The cure for insecurity is understanding your true identity.
When you know who you are, it doesn’t matter what you are not. You are loved by God. That’s why he made you, why he saved you. Why he shed the blood of his Son and filled you with his Spirit. Why he gave you a calling. You’re loved by God! You don’t need approval from anyone else, because the only likes that really matter come from heaven—and they are already yours.
The good news for us insecure, mask-wearing phonies is that we can choose to take our masks off. That’s scary, I know. You might have been wearing one for so long you don’t know what life would look like without it. But let me tell you: it looks like freedom.