Taking Off the Mask

By Shawna Ervin

How fickle my heart and how woozy my eyes
I struggle to find any truth in your lies
And now my heart stumbles on things I don’t know
My weakness I feel I must finally show
– Awake My Soul, Mumford and Sons

I have often been told I am strong. I am brave and amazing, people say. I hide under the guise of those things, aim for another award or medal, let their shine hide my shame.

Under the accolades and accomplishments, I’m weak. I’m hurting under the weight of loss and pain from my past.

Only recently have I learned the freedom of being authentic and letting people close enough to see my scrapes from stumbling through life. I believed I had to be strong, brave, and amazing to earn acceptance. I believed people counted on me to be those things. If I didn’t exude those traits surely I would find myself alone.

I was alone. In public I was serene, reserved, put together. In private I bared my pain, but made sure no one knew. If they did, surely they would reject me. I wasn’t strong enough to share my vulnerabilities. It was terrifying.

Finally, I did. I found my mask drooping a bit and didn’t bother to fix it. I wasn’t rejected. After a lifetime of hiding, I found myself baring small weaknesses, saying things out loud. Sexual abuse. My story.

I don’t always wear the mask of strength and bravery anymore. I leave it off from time to time. I let others see my scars and see me.

In showing my weakness, I have found true strength. In taking off the mask of brave and amazing I have found what brave really is. It is not hiding in the spotlight. It is not cowering in a shadow. It is reaching out for people when I need them. It is taking off the mask and letting them see the scars of deep pain. It is seeing them smile when they see the unmasked me, and smiling back.

“It is in the process of embracing our imperfections that we find our truest gifts: courage, compassion and connection.” – Brene Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection

Photo taken by Shawna Ervin
Photo by Shawna Ervin

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