Behind the Mask: Where Our True Self Waits -

Behind the Mask: Where Our True Self Waits

behind-the-mask I recently attended a meeting for the local chapter of the Canadian Association for Professional Speakers. I was pleased to run into my friend, Sarah Hilton, while I was there. It’s been years since I’ve seen her, and renewing her acquaintance seemed timely given a certain subject matter that seems to be showing itself to me on a regular basis these days. And that is, hiding – or at least not recognizing and embracing – our authentic self. We’re hiding behind the mask, and it looks a lot like the face we see in the mirror every single morning.

Unmask Yourself

There are many different names for this. A mask. A persona. A facade. “Keeping up appearances.” The results are all the same. It equals out to us not feeling comfortable in expressing and sharing who we really are and what we really stand for deep in our core. We tell everybody that we are “fine” when we’re not and we are longing for some sense of deeper connection to other humans and to soften the edge of that sensation we all get from time to time, the one that falsely accuses us of us of being fundamentally flawed in some way, not good or capable enough to do what we really would wish we could do or be who we really want to be.

Many years ago, when Sarah and I were first introduced, she expressed an interest in my songwriting as a means to support some of her efforts as a speaker in the Mental Health field. In particular, she was going to be a part of a project that encouraged people to “unmask” their authentic self. She asked if I would take a crack at writing a song that would capture that spirit. I was touched and grateful to be asked and I set about the task with heartfelt enthusiasm. I well remember exactly where I was when the words came to me, driving along Highway 401 here in Ontario Canada, on my way up to my mother’s cottage, a place of peace and sense of connection to family past and present.

Here’s what I wrote that day:

By Kevin Bulmer (SOCAN)
©2011 Kevin Bulmer Enterprises

We’re about to change
And live more presently
Inside a sense of freedom

Time to rearrange
(And) break free from all these scripts
And all the ways we’ve always seen them

And you’re not alone
So here we go …

Unmask yourself and let it go
Love who you are and let it grow
Embrace what you already know
And live the magic

Trust in yourself and start today
Just let your heart show you the way
Take off the mask, throw it away
And live the magic

You could be aware
Of all the kindness and compassion
That’s within you
No need to compare
Rather see past the other masks
Up all around you

And you’re not alone
So here we go …

Unmask yourself and let it go
Love who you are and let it grow
Embrace what you already know
And live the magic

Trust in yourself and start today
Just let your heart show you the way
Take off the mask, throw it away
And live the magic

Up on the bridge of self esteem
‘Tween who you are and wish to be
Distracted by each passing breeze
Just let it breathe
Just let it be …

Unmask yourself and let it go
Love who you are and let it grow
Embrace what you already know
And live the magic

Trust in yourself and start today
Just let your heart show you the way
Take off the mask, throw it away
And live the magic

I believe that Sarah had her daughters recorded a version of that song for the project she had in mind. I wonder if anything else has ever happened with it? I’ll have to ask her. I was always very proud of the song and I think that the message is one that we all need to be reminded of, including myself.

Whispers From the Universe


The path will show itself to you … if you’re willing to look and listen

It is sometimes a little spooky how these threads seem to sew themselves together within the fabric of a life. It was within a period of days that I was reintroduced to Sarah and also recorded a podcast discussion with Speaker and Author, Sue Curr, who spoke of living most of her first 50 years under what she called “a facade,” and only really embracing her true self for the last four years or so of her life.

I recorded another podcast conversation that day with a dynamic woman from San Francisco name Michelle Dutro, host of “The Game Changer Podcast.” She and I spoke of a similar thing: the process of finally letting go of trying to keep up appearances and fulfill external expectations and to fully embrace and express who she felt she really was.

Those who know me understand that I am also an enormous fan of the work of Gay Hendricks. I first read of the idea of personas that we adopt and show to other people through his landmark book, “Conscious Living.” (I cannot recommend that book more highly. Click here for the story of why it is so important to me and how it helped me in my life).

It seems interesting to me that I’m being reminded, on all these separate occasions but within a certain, tight frame of time, of the process and necessity of taking off the mask and living true to yourself. It seems as if the universe is trying to deliver a message. It’s working.

Who Knows YOU Best?

The more trips around the sun I make, the more people I meet and listen to and observe and the more I reflect back on my own adventure so far, the more I am absolutely convinced that we have conditioned ourselves to feel as if we need to mimic or follow along with other people. The great, sad irony is that, in my opinion, the vast majority of those people are mimicking and following along as well. We grow up trying to be like people who also don’t know where they’re going, and end up with ailments of all kinds, from depression and anxiety to overeating, overspending and in some cases drug or alcohol addiction, just to try to sooth the shudder in our souls and give us some sense of escape from everyday stress and some fleeting sense of contentment. The trouble is, those things all work the same way: they’re external. They’re Band-Aids. They are treating symptoms while the true cause lay unattended. Indeed, these external solutions, which aren’t really solutions at all, just create more symptoms to be dealt with in the long run, making the cause even further away, more difficult to get to as it’s buried under additional layers of muck and mire.

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I did not write this to suggest that the process of recognizing and embracing your authentic self is easy. I did write it to suggest that it is possible and necessary in order for us to feel content and whole as individuals and as a group of fellow human beings trying to make their way through the world in the best fashion possible. As for how to do it, my sense is that the best place to start is to be willing to ask. Throw the questions out to the universe. or whatever it is that you believe in. And see if you can open your heart enough to allow for the possibility that, just maybe, the answers are not necessarily going to reflect what you think they should be or what you have thought they are for a good part of your life.

Good (and not-so-good) Vibrations


Don’t wait til the wheels fall off.

My personal and professional experiences, and especially the conversations that I’ve enjoyed this last year through hosting the No Schedule Man Podcast, have shown me that it seems to be more common than not for people to arrive somewhere in midlife and realize that they are not living in the vibratory state that they would like; something seems off. Like a race car with a loose wheel, one can still move forward but it’s an awful lot more difficult and will create a host of other issues which will need to be attended to because everything else is thrown out of alignment. In the case of a race car, when you pick up what they would call “a bad vibration,” your only choice is to pull off the track and into the pits and to try to get things back into balance. Ignore the warning signs, and you’re headed for a crash and you’ll never have a chance to win because you won’t even see the finish line.

Living a life true to ourselves seems to be largely the same way. Put up appearances, live behind a facade, hide behind a persona all you like. You can tell everybody, and even yourself, that everything’s okay and maybe even better than okay, but your soul and your spirit and your body know better. And there will be a price to pay.

So What To Do?

My suggestion: Pull into the pits before the crash comes. Look into the mirror and see if you can allow yourself to at least peek behind that mask and ask and be open to the real answer of whether or not you are living a life true to yourself, saying things you feel that you need to say, doing the things that you will be glad that you did once you get to the end of your days, and spending less time and energy on the things that you know are not serving who you really are and wish to be. And … be patient. Don’t be surprised if the answers don’t come right away. They will come in time if you’re willing to look and listen for them.

But you won’t get an answer to a question if it’s never asked.

12 Responses to “Behind the Mask: Where Our True Self Waits

  • Sometimes I have said that I am fine when I have not been. That is only because I did not want to bother people with my problems. But depending on who I am talking to then I may say what is on my mind. That is what first came to mind when I first started reading this post.

    But I understand where you coming from. I need to unmask myself as only then I can be true to myself. It is difficult though as sometimes we are just pleasing to other people and maybe trying to appear strong in front of other people. I suppose though that it is a juggling act.

    • We’ve all done that. Most of us probably still do that in one way or the other each day. It can be scary to be authentic. We’ve got to change that, and over time, we’ll have less fear to reveal in the first place.
      Thanks Owain. Always appreciate your comments!

  • I think the openness of the media and the social media in general has produced a situation where every and each one of us has access to all kinds of information, advertisements, videos, podcasts etc, that always seem to reveal to us something greater than us.
    Take for example playing guitar. If you’re a beginner guitarist, or even intermediate, and you open youtube and see a 9 years old chinese kid playing 10 times better than you, you will feed sort-of demotivated.
    This situation happens in every field of life, and it plays a big role in us wanting to wear masks or tell ourselves things that does not fully represent us.
    Another situation where we allow ourselves to wear masks is when we are sorrounded with people with a total opposite perception and ideas of ours, and we have to hide it to some degree in order to keep a natural relationship with everybody. Not sure if that’s normal, or healthy, but a lot of times we have no choice about it.
    Great article, keep up the good stuff Kevin.

    • Thanks Elias,
      You make some interesting points. Your thoughtful remarks are very much appreciated.
      Wishing you the best,

  • Hey Kevin, great article. I think a lot this stems from a lack of confidence. I look back on my early years in life and I too probably hid behide a mask. Overtime we all grow in strength or confidence from something we have either achieved or experienced in life. 9 times out of 10 it makes us a better person…hopefully wiser and more rounded for the experience.

    • Hi Murray,
      I think part of it is that we don’t even know of it as “hiding.” That might not be the right word. Even well into adulthood, we often don’t feel safe to say or do what’s really in our hearts.
      Thanks or your comments. Be well,

  • A really long, and thought provoking post. I love the message that you post behind the mask is trying to emphasise. “Be true to yourself” I couldn’t agree more, it is a difficult thing to though, but my carer is always true to herself and a lot of people don’t like her, They find her opinionated , eee there is no pleasing some people lol

  • Thanks Kevin, very uplifting post. I lived behind a mask probably till I was about 28 years old. It took me a while to break through some insecurities and discover who I really was, and more importantly embrace that person.

    It really is an amazing thing when you finally get rid of the mask, and start living your life as your true self. I teach high school students now, and see so many that are going through this. I plan on sharing this post with them in class, as I know it will benefit them.

    Thanks for this, and I look forward to more inspirational posts!


    • Hi Chris,
      Thanks for dropping in and for your thoughtful comments. I really feel that “the mask” is, at first, a major thing that many of us eventually have to face up to, and then from there it becomes very much a moment-to-moment, day-to-day thing. We can “know who we are” but still be afraid to speak openly and honestly about a great many things. We don’t feel safe. And yet, more often than not, once that vulnerability is exposed, the fear seems to dissolve. Once you have an issue out in the open, you can start to do something with it, rather than have it eat you from the inside out. It’s a tough lesson, but a valuable one many of us (myself included) keep re-learning over and over again.
      Best wishes to you and all the students and their families at your school!

  • Sarah Hilton
    4 years ago

    Hi Kevin, thanks for touching and exploring the idea of removing the mask. I still do a lot of work in this as founder of SOS, Stressed Out Solutions. You are absolutely correct in saying that the moment we take off the mask, we kind find our truth, our peace. We have not done anything more with the song, maybe it is time to do so. I will always have the words in my heart. Great meeting up again. Let’s keep this conversation going….

    • Wonderful, Sarah! Thanks for dropping by and sharing your thoughts.
      I’ll dust off that song and have it ready, just in case …
      Talk soon, I hope.
      Best wishes!

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