Hats and Masks: The Difference Between the Two In Mental Health
Hello there and HAPPY SPOOKY SEASON!!
I love this time of year. In fact, Halloween is one of my top three holidays because of the following reasons:
It marks the beginning of Timbs and sweaters. I like any opportunity to be cozy.
I can leave the windows open to my home and fresh air makes me very happy.
When I plan well, I love trying out a new costume!
Pumpkin puree is everything. Everything, I say.
While walking around a store today, I saw a handful of masks, onesies, and hats on display and it made me think a lot about… (cue terribly pointed, but still [maybe] brilliant transition) hats and masks we may or may not wear on a daily basis. Not literal hats and masks; they can be literal if that’s your thing, but I’m talking about our metaphorical hats and masks.
Hats meaning the different roles we play in life and masks refers to the different personas and characteristics we present to ourselves and those around us.
One is fine and healthy, but the other is a bit more concerning.
We’ll start with hats. We hear folks reference their relevant hats from time to time. For example, imagine speaking to an educator that’s about to lead a classroom, it would be an appropriate time for them to say they’re putting on their “teaching hat.” Putting on certain hats is symbolic for the multiple roles we hold in life.
I, myself, have many hats. Some of my hats include being a therapist, partner, daughter, best friend, volunteer, student, and more. We carry these hats everywhere we go because we hold space and care for all of these different roles we take on in life. Yes, sometimes having multiple roles can be exhausting and even leave us feeling like we have a reduced amount of time for ourselves, but the more hats we’re able to hold can lead to an extremely fulfilling life when balanced well with self care and boundaries.
Holding and maintaining hats in life is healthy.
Masks are a bit more complicated.
In a perfect world, we wouldn’t have masks at all. Masks would be limited to Halloween and other costume related events, but we’re human and sometimes folks get into the habit of putting on a mask or two (maybe even more). A mask refers to how you present yourself while wearing different hats.
Regardless of what hat we may be wearing, there should be characteristics about ourselves that permeate into every role. These characteristics point to our most authentic selves that have built over years of experience, thought, and feeling. If these characteristics are aspects that we are comfortable with in ourselves, masks are not necessary. Masks appear when there’s dissonance between our authentic self and the presentation that others see within specific roles, or hats that we put on.
Whether I’m in therapy sessions, sitting on the couch with my husband, or just texting a friend, there are parts of myself that stay consistent in every interaction. I practice active listening, ask a lot of questions, and most likely make cheesy jokes.
If we ever feel the need to wear a mask while wearing any of our hats, it means something isn’t aligned or there’s something stopping you from being completely authentic. This could be because of a variety of reasons. Some of these reasons include, but are not limited to the following:
You feel hurt
You’re “not yourself,” meaning you’re tired or feeling another emotion more intensely that day
You’re distracted by something/someone else in your life
Whatever the reason may be, wearing a mask may mean that you need time to sit with what’s coming up for you with that specific person or in that specific environment and figure out how to return to a sturdy and comfortable sense of self again.
I’m sure you’re wondering, “How do I do that?” Stay tuned for my November article and I’ll address that next step.
For now, make a list (mental or physical) of your hats and, if they are present, the masks you wear and sit with your reactions around everything that comes up!
Hope you enjoyed this read! Let me know if any comments or questions come up for you.