Unmasking the Real You: Navigating Social Masks and Boundaries in St. George, UT

The Emotional Masks We Wear And Why We Wear Them

Have you ever felt yourself ‘holding back’ in a conversion? What about smiling and nodding even though you didn’t completely agree with another person? I myself have had to wear a brave face during moments when I felt anxious, overwhelmed or scared. If you’ve experienced any of these moments for yourself then you have practiced social masking.

In fact, I ran across a quote recently (probably in the twitter / Instagram / facebook multiverse) that said something to the effect of:

We all wear masks in social settings.

And that’s okay. They protect us.

Would you be willing to consider this for a moment? It’s worth some thought because most of us have been taught that wearing a mask means we have something to hide. Or that we are being intentionally deceitful. Yuck! If you’re reading this blog, you likely would cringe at the idea of misleading your loved ones or friends.
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What Does Emotional Masking Look Like In St. George, UT?

First of all, let’s acknowledge, we do all wear masks. Still not certain if you wear a mask from time to time? Here are some common examples of making:

  • We laugh at jokes that aren’t that funny.
  • We wear the mask as the pleasant customer when we ask for the bill from the car
    mechanic
  • We wear a mask when someone we don’t enjoy starts a conversation with us at the
    neighborhood barbeque.
  • We wear a mask when our mom asks a deeply personal question that we don’t want to answer.

If you have ever done one of these, or something similar to it (you get the idea), know this…It is okay that we wear these masks. They are our social lubricant, or boundaries. We don’t have to wear our hearts on our sleeves with strangers, unpleasant people, or our loved ones when they’ve crossed a boundary. We don’t have to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth when a stranger at the bus stop asks overly personal questions. There are times when it is appropriate to wear a social mask.

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Managing Relationships in St. George, UT (And Everywhere Else)

Let’s pause here for a moment and get really clear on one thing. It is not appropriate to mislead people or misrepresent yourself. But we do get to choose how much we share, to whom, and in what setting.

When we are just getting to know someone, we will often (and perhaps should) wear a bit of a mask until we know each other enough to be a little more emotionally vulnerable and emotionally intimate with them. We shouldn’t mislead people into thinking we are someone other than who we are. But we also don’t have to show all our cards in the first round.

As painful as small talk is, it is the safe way to get to know each other bit by bit, allowing us to decide one step at a time if we want to take the next step. As we talk about our favorite hobbies, movies, lifestyle, etc. we learn enough to know if we want to ask and share a deeper level of ourselves. For example, sharing that you’re recently divorced, struggling with infertility, taking medication for your anxiety or depression… or even something positive such as achieving a major goal.

The mask of being super interested in small talk is how we determine as much as possible if the other person is someone who is safe enough to be a little bit more vulnerable. Are they listening closely? Willing to share about themselves? Being resultful? Demonstrating trustworthiness? If they are, you might consider slowly lowering your mask.

Mask Wearing And Boundaries In Relationships

If this conversation is beginning to sound a little like having boundaries, I’m not surprised. The two concepts have a lot in common. For example, our Southern Utah therapists teach that having functional boundaries means that our boundaries are different based on who we are with, where we are and so much more. They are contextual. Similarly, we should wear masks that match the role we are playing in certain circumstances.

For example, as a parent you likely find yourself wearing a mask of patience you don’t fully feel. This is appropriate. Kids need a lot of time and attention, no matter how hard a day you’ve had. You dig deep, find a sliver of patience, and wear it to the best of your ability. This because it’s not your toddler’s concern or responsibility to manage how you feel (of course, as they age, we accept them to learn to be patient in return – even when they don’t feel like it either!).

Let’s consider the example of wearing a mask of friendliness at the barbeque. You don’t have to lead on your neighbor and act like you want to be their best friend, but it really would be inappropriate to explain why we find someone so unpleasant in the setting of a barbeque.

Many of our therapy clients have friends and family members as, “How are your therapy sessions going?” And oftentimes our clients answer, “it’s good” or “I like it” and then change the topic as if there is something much more interesting to discuss. Why? Because the client wasn’t ready to share that they were experiencing a faith crisis, a partner’s infidelity or their miscarriage. These masks (small smiles and nods) or boundaries are an act of self-care. You get to preserve the intimate details of your life for a later date, with the right people, at the right time.

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Learning About Boundaries In Therapy At Our St. George, UT Office

Not only do we get to protect ourselves, but we also, to an extent, get to protect other people. Consider that children are literally unable to do certain things. And to get mad at them for not being able to keep up with the speed we are comfortable with would be cruel. Melissa Spaulding, CMHC (therapist and owner of Guided Wellness Counseling) reflects a time when her youngest child was too young to understand the family’s finances or their frugal values. With this in mind, it would have been unfair to expect him to make smart purchasing decisions as they took weekly strolls through the St. George Farmer’s Market. So when he took time to imagine buying yet another 3D printed widget, she’d smile, agree that yes-it-was-oh-so-cool and try to move him along as patiently as possible.

Just because someone is not your flavor of tea does not mean they deserve negative feedback. They get to be the flavor they are. And you get to manage your own emotions of not liking being around someone who is not your flavor.

And even though mom used to know you better than you knew yourself, she doesn’t get that privilege anymore. But that’s hard for her to suss out. So maybe give her some grace as you assess your new boundaries at this stage of life.

Do You Just Want To Be Yourself?

Sometimes social rules and expectations are so strict that we feel like we have to wear masks. That is going too far the other way. Social rules are meant to help us know what to do. But we do not have to be slaves to them. We still can be authentic. We do not have to feel shame when we go against the grain or commit a social faux pas. Do you happen to talk really fast? That’s ok. Do you get a little “too excited for your age” for a new movie to come out? That’s ok! Masks do and should come off. They hide but don’t obliterate.

It is also necessary to take our masks off. They exist to serve a purpose in a situation. They are not meant to be in any way permanent – something that you do all the time, with everyone… even yourself. Get to know your inner self. Share it with those you love. Protect it as you need to.

Finding Relief and Authenticity Through Therapy in St. George, UT

We’ve journeyed through the concept of social masking and its implications on our daily lives. From laughing at jokes that don’t quite tickle our funny bone to politely engaging in small talk at social gatherings, we all wear masks from time to time. These masks can protect us, help us navigate social waters, and maintain our boundaries. However, it’s crucial to remember that while these masks serve a purpose, they should not become a permanent fixture, hindering our true selves.

At Guided Wellness Counseling in St. George, UT, we understand the delicate balance between necessary social masks and authentic living. Our goal is to support you in finding that balance, helping you to remove the masks that no longer serve you and to live more authentically.

If you’ve been feeling overwhelmed by the need to constantly wear a mask or if you’re struggling to navigate the boundaries between your true self and the roles you play in your daily life, it might be time to seek the support of a therapist. Therapy can provide a safe space to explore these feelings, understand the origins and causes of your masking, and develop healthier ways to cope with social pressures.

We invite you to take the next step towards a more authentic and fulfilling life. At Guided Wellness Counseling, our compassionate and experienced therapists are here to guide you through this journey. Whether you’re dealing with anxiety, relationship issues, or simply feeling disconnected from your true self, we’re here to help.

Make an appointment with us today and begin the process of uncovering your true self. Together, we can work towards a life where you feel more at ease, confident, and true to who you are. Reach out to Guided Wellness Counseling in St. George, UT, and let’s embark on this journey together. Your authentic self is waiting to be unveiled.

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