I love the late Maya Angelou’s poetry because her voice is unique, touching and mesmerizing. There’s a poem of hers that I adore. I found it years ago on Youtube. It is called “The Mask.” It is her adaptation of the poem by Paul Lawrence called “We Wear the Mask”
I’ll share a few lines and explain why and how these stanzas are significant and move me.
We wear the mask that grins and lies.
It shades our cheeks and hides our eyes.
This debt we pay to human guile
With torn and bleeding hearts…
We smile and mouth the myriad subtleties.
Why should the world think otherwise
In counting all our tears and sighs.
Nay let them only see us while
We wear the mask.
Life is full of challenges. We all go through it but not everyone sees it. Not everyone sees our struggles and pains because we sometimes hide it. We don’t share it. We walk around smiling and going about our daily routines but deep inside, we are hurting.
One of my hurts from adolescence and early young adult years was feeling like I don’t belong. My hurt has been seeking meaning and connection in my life. One of my hurts has been loneliness. The mask I had was going about my daily routines and not addressing these issues.
View this post on Instagram
Self-reflection matters. We easily look out in the world and blame others and our conditions as the reasons we aren't happy. But it's better to take a look at you. How do you think? How do you approach others? How have your experiences shaped you? Self-reflection helps you understand the way you live. #motivation #inspiration #selfhelp #selflove #mentalhealthmatters #thursdaythoughts #thoughtsoftheday #writers #isiwriting #nigerianbloggers #mentalhealth #bloggers
When I take out the mask, I’m vulnerable and I let you see me as I am. Taking out the mask can be scary but it is also liberating because I can admit that I am not perfect. I admit that I have many doubts and fears about my future. I admit that there are moments that I get lonely.
I take out the mask by writing and sharing these thoughts with you that’s reading this. I take out the mask by making efforts to being part of communities where I feel understood and valued. I take out the mask by having conversations with family members about the difficulties and fears I may feel about my future.
We smile but oh my God
Our tears to thee from tortured souls arise
And we sing Oh Babydoll, now we sing…
The clay is vile beneath our feet
And long the mile
But let the world think otherwise.
We wear the mask.
As the mask is off, I am free from hiding, pretending and hurting alone. Taking off the mask opens me up to connect more with others. Taking off the mask encourages me to make efforts to find joy, meaning and connection.
So I want to ask you, how many times have you worn a fake smile? How many times has someone asked you how you are and you said alright when you are barely keeping afloat. I want to know how often you share your true emotions? How often do you dare to be vulnerable and let someone know what it is that pains you?
Inside the mask, it can feel safe. Inside the mask, we can almost convince ourselves that we are okay. Inside the mask, we think we don’t need to reveal the truth. The pretense can give us a false sense of being powerful. But let’s get real with ourselves and the world that we are not perfect. Let’s admit that we need someone to listen to us. That we want someone to hold us. That we seek a place to belong.
Are you wearing a mask?