Behind the mask


Yesterday I was driving home from a trip to Target when I heard a song on the radio that knocked some much needed sense into me. Understand, I love music. LOVE. Classical, pop, heavy metal rock, indie, country- everything. Music speaks to my soul. Clearly.

The song is by Labrinth, featuring Emeli Sande, called “Beneath Your Beautiful.”

The lyrics portray the mask we as people tend to put up to the world. I do it all the time. They aren’t “fake’ personas, but they are “parts” of me that I feel are the most appropriate at the time. We get so caught up by the world’s expectations that we have a tendency to lock parts of ourself up.

Can’t show the fear of failure because I need to show confidence. Can’t talk about the marriage struggles because we need to keep it together in public. Can’t go without makeup because I need to look “put together” at all times. Can’t tell my boss I messed up because he needs to think I’ve got it all together.

The problem is, none of us have it all together. (If you do, I promise it won’t last.)

But why is transparency a bad thing? Why is this idea that we must be picture perfect so strong that we can’t let our walls down? Because I guarantee we all have those days, those moments, and those shadows. It means I’m a work in progress, that I’m REAL. Gray areas, sunny moments, and dark nights of the soul all together.

I’m guilty of it. I’d love to pretend it was brought out by the last three years in pageants, but that would be a complete falsehood. In fact, pageantry may have uncovered and revealed more of my “true self” than any other experience. I started putting on that “perfect” mask as far back as I can remember…elementary school when I would sit just so and give the answers to the teacher knowing I looked smart when they were right. When I’d go to friends houses growing up and pretend my life was just like theirs- in a neat and tidy suburban home with a back yard fence and dinner at the table at 6 p.m. That mask would fit neatly on when I’d walk into any situation, and I’d just change it out for the corresponding moment. Not false, just different aspects. But rarely raw. Rarely bare. Rarely all of me.

Because there was an image to represent. Me. Capable. Competent. Composed. Carefree. Too bad mixed in that was fearful, shy, weird, tired, calm, exhausted, financially worried, ambitious, and sometimes angry and bitter. Better not show all of it– it was too much for one person to handle. It might not be what they need.

Yesterday’s crowning moment was a long time coming. It was like all that pageant preparation- it builds you and builds you, revealing little chinks in that armor you thought would protect you but really made you more vulnerable. Moments started surfacing that I had pushed down:

  • Grayson telling me 2 years ago, after an all night cry session, that he liked me better without makeup and my hair air-dryed and messy as a lions mane
  • My friends goodnatured groans about how many times I would make them retake a photo of us
  • A session with my mental management coach 2 years ago, talking about how I didn’t know how to present “all of me.”
  • Those raw photos of me without make up that I wouldn’t let my friend (who has known me since childhood and knows all of my weird sides) keep because they showed acne scars on my face. 
  • The time I cried telling my best friend of 3 years the story of my parent’s deaths and the months afterward.
  • How much my life appearance and timeline means to me, versus the EXPERIENCE of it.
  • How much stress am I putting on myself, and others, by trying to wear the right mask at the right time? 

I took a chance at Miss Texas this year, and was completely and utterly myself on that stage. Goofy (yes, I laughed on stage- at myself), passionate (see photos of my hugs with my pageant sisters), joyful (I have some of the most ridiculous arm waving pictures when I was sending love to those who where there to support me), and raw. It wasn’t picture perfect all the time, and I wasn’t the perfect ideal of poise and grace (hello stairs, meet 6 inch heels) at every moment. But I was real- I was in need of prayer and support day of finals (Thank you Khrista & Meghan), I ate chocolate and didn’t care, and I was exhaused. But that vulnerabilty, that trust that I was enough, paid off. 2nd runner up? YEAH, I’ll take that.

So my little crowning moment is challenging myself to believe that in MORE than pageant experiences. To let bad pictures be posted. To tell my friends what I really think, and when I’m mad, or when I’m so insanely proud of them. To tell my boss when I’m overwhelmed. To stop worrying so much about when I will have that “perfect timeline” of my life and instead find 3 wonderful things about each day. To stop and enjoy the insanely hot Texas sun on my face because it’s a gift. And to stop worrying about what I “should be” and instead just “be.”

Because perhaps the most beautiful part of ourselves is behind the “beautiful” and “the perfect”- it’s the real.

Photo credit: Eric Garcia Photography

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