What is that glowing, radiant smile on your face hiding? What is the over performance at work compensating for? You have lost 20 pounds and hit the gym everyday, but you have not seen your friends in weeks; why?

When keeping up appearances becomes a burden, when every moment alone with your thoughts feels like torture, when anxiety and self doubt make it difficult to breathe…its time to heal your spirit. Healing begins when we move past the stigma of experiencing human emotions that society deems weak and taboo.

Partially inspired by Diana Ross’ song “Drop The Mask”, in which she challenges the listener to “let down your guard, open your heart, unloose your chains, don’t be afraid”, Brooklyn MFT has adopted the 2014 theme: "Drop The Mask” for our monthly articles. We will initiate frank conversations about depression, anxiety, and life difficulties that block us from living optimally. You are invited to comment on, debate, and share these discussions with friends, family, and foes alike!

I understand dropping a mask that seems to successfully get you through your day, maintain your employment, and secure the respect of others can feel like a risk you are not willing to undertake. By definition, risk is the exposure to danger, harm, or loss. But aren't these the same feelings and emotions that you are already experiencing? If you believe that higher risk yields a higher return, then I challenge you to consider the return on an investment in your personal well-being.

When you live your life wearing a mask to give off the allusion of emotional well-being, the only person that loses in this scenario is you. You loose contentment, confidence, and self-respect.

The first step to dropping the mask is acknowledging that you are wearing one! This can be the most difficult step for some, as identifying the source of our emotional struggles is not always clear cut.
The second step to dropping the mask is identifying what purpose your mask is serving. What goals are being accomplished by keeping it in place? Which relationships are maintained by wearing this facial accessory? Whose feelings are you protecting by not expressing your own?
The third step is to begin loosening your mask. This can be done by making a conscious effort to identify situations where you notice the mask is present and challenge yourself to reduce those occurrences. For example, if you notice the mask goes on at work, accompanies you to the gym or happy hour, and is only removed once you have climbed into bed at night, begin to set aside a moment to journal the emotions you have felt throughout the day. Study your list to see which emotion(s) you are willing to express, or no longer cover-up, when they appear in the future.
The fourth step is continuous. It involves recycling your mask of inauthenticity into a new accessory that enhances your self-image and ego strength. Recycling requires a break down of the original mask into a consistency that can be manipulated into your desired level emotional wellness. As you begin to make efforts at recycling your mask, make sure to elicit the support of those you trust. Seeking the assistance of a licensed mental health professional often helps to expedite this process.

For more information on personal coaching and counseling services, visit www.BrooklynMFT.com.

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