Wearing a mask become the new normal for us over the last few years, but when we refer to wearing a mask, we’re not always referring to the physical mask worn as a protection from Potential physical illness, but the metaphorical mask worn when someone is experiencing emotional distress.
I was part of a discussion about ‘maskless conversations’ over the weekend. It’s not often that we have these, in fact I do not always have them myself.
What do I mean by ‘maskless conversations’? Well, simply put, when we talk and are truly vulnerable, open and honest about how we are feeling with not just strangers but those closest to us.
As honest as I am there are still many things I don’t share. Why? Because sometimes people don’t need to know what’s in my head, or I don’t want to burden them, or that still intrusive, but much quieter, fear of judgement.
For people who wear that mask constantly (and I know many people who do but don’t even share that with those they live with), hiding their reality is a necessity, often due to feelings of shame, stigma and discrimination. The feeling that other people’s opinions are judgements of them and these opinions can sometimes manifest in discriminatory behaviours, so they would be better placed to hide their truth – to wear a mask and suppress all their emotions.
But the truth is that the constant mask wearing is exhausting and can make them feel worse until they lose themselves and stigma becomes the barrier to them getting the help that they need.
Awareness, education, open and honest conversations and implementing protective factors for better wellness will change this.
The phrase “if you need help just reach out and talk” is often heard, but the truth is if you’re wearing that mask it’s so difficult to talk. So we need to spin the narrative and create safe places and environments where talking about emotions, emotional fitness and mental health are completely acceptable, not just normal.
What environment are you in where you can do that? Be that at home, school, workplace, bandroom or sports club? Can you create an environment where having “maskless conversations” becomes psychologically safe?