The masks we wear

So this month I decided to do something a little different for CPD – (Continuing Professional Development). I had just become a member of the Creative Counsellors Club and thought I would pop along to their monthly skill share in Leeds, West Yorkshire.  It turns out to be a friendly bunch of counsellors all happy to to increase their learnt knowledge through mutual skill sharing. We gathered on a sunny Saturday afternoon, with this skill share headed by the delightful Caroline Peacock of Here and Held Therapeutic Services . This months theme included looking at creative ways of exploring the masks we wear. I think we can all be guilty to some extent of wearing “Masks” to help us get through the day, either to protect, avoid or just get jobs done.  Mum at breakfast time, boss of a team of 10 at lunchtime, patient compliant daughter at tea time. It can be exhausting, tiring and frustrating – being all these people when sometimes we just want to be ourselves.

When mask wearing becomes part of your life

In fact, we can get conditioned and so used to wearing our masks sometimes we can forget who the “real” self really is. At times our alter egos taking over our lives.  Or for some wearing a mask is the only way they feel will be accepted by family or friends or society. Ending up rarely or never being able to show their authentic self.  My personal belief is living in this way, suppressing our real self is unhealthy for our emotional wellbeing. Our mask making exercise was a great fun relaxed exercise, really allowing us to get creative and explore our own masks. Taking a peek at the person behind the mask.

The two masks I created I realised were a show of how far I had come on my own personal journey of self-development. My first mask reflected the past – dark, depressing, full of self-doubt and anxiety, sadness, anger, and resentment. Forward thirty years and thanks to lots of self-development my second mask reflected how I felt now. It was lighter, brighter, happier, contented, brimming with self-esteem, confidence, and acknowledgment that I am enough. Looking at the mask it also made me aware there was a sense of calm about this mask. This really did reflect my life right now. Just seeing these two extremes as something I had created - that I could touch and hold made it seem more real. There was a sense of validation of my journey. This gave me a sense of confidence and pride in what I had accomplished - which did leave me smiling. But I think it's important to acknowledge for another time it could also bring up painful emotions. So there needs to be some awareness that the activity does need to be carried out in a safe environment.

Exploring the masks we wear in therapy

Exploring our many masks and how they affect us can be combined in therapy work. They don’t have to be elaborate as the ones we created at our skill share.  They can be used to reflect on the “then” and “now”, but they can also be used to explore feelings - the “shown” and “hidden”. This could be used in therapy for example if you have difficulty expressing your thoughts but also it can give one new realisation's and awareness. Getting creative with your mask making isn’t just for children or just young people either. I found creating the mask was fun and emotionally healthy, allowing my inner child to play. Of course, you can use paint, stickers and all things that sparkle, but just as effective a piece of paper with a line down the middle.

Once you have explored what you show the world and what you keep hidden a useful exercise is to reflect if this is how you want to be or are there things you would like to change? How would implementing these changes affect your life? How would you feel not making the changes? Sometimes its empowering to just be able to accept you can't make any change right now. And thats absolutely O.K too. This exercise can be carried out in your therapy session – I like to try mask making exercises with clients who might be a little stuck in therapy or who have trouble expressing themselves verbally. Or you can give mask making a try at home on your own and share your thoughts and reflections with your own therapist (if you are comfortable doing that of course).


Article Written & Photography by Yasmin Shaheen @EmpathyOffered

Creative Therapy materials used
Lots of Creative Materials to inspire!
Mask Making Exercise
Yikes - a bit scary seeing a naked mask!
The Masks We Wear
My Past and Present in front of me

Further Reading and Helpful Links

The Creative Counsellors Club

The Masks We Wear by Dr Eugine Rollins

The 10 Masks We Wear Psych Central

We Wear the Mask Poem by Paul Laurence Dunbar

Find out more.

If you would like to think about making change in your life with the help of a supportive, non-judgmental space and a good meaningful conversation with a qualified person Yasmin at Empathy Offered might be able to help.

Yasmin is available online or face to face in Pool-in-Wharfedale, North Yorkshire and Adel, North Leeds. Find out here how you can contact her.

The past and present of how I felt
Masks we wear which we show the world