5 Masks Some Women Hide Behind—But Shouldn’t


I recently spent several days at a business conference and noticed that even women in leadership roles intentionally determined the “mask” they would wear for specific events. Sometimes the mask extends to wardrobe and accessory choices in addition to posture and facial expressions. Looking around at the men in the group, though, led me to believe that men do not feel pressured to make as much effort for their voice and positions on issues to be heard. Disappointing in many respects considering all of the history that has passed since the 1970s when women actively began the fight for equal rights – but then I realize that women’s right to vote has not yet reached its 100th year anniversary.

Looking around at the women in the room, some of whom I’ve known for decades, I often found myself figuratively scratching my head and musing, “Who are you trying to be?”

Mask of Temperance

This is the mask that keeps our desires from being exposed. It is the woman who is hiding the parts of her nature that might give evidence that she enjoys life and all that it has to offer; it’s like the alcoholic who must refuse any form of alcohol to avoid the risk of slipping down a dangerous slope. It’s the woman who turns down the opportunity to speak her mind, for fear of hurting another’s feelings – even when she knows she is firmly in the right. It’s the woman who loves chocolate, but feels that she must reject dessert with an apologetic, “I’m on a diet,” even when it is not true and is said only because it is what women are “supposed” to say. It’s the woman who refuses to respond with passion or commitment to issues about which she has strong feelings, just because it’s what she’s been taught that women should do.

Mask of Modesty

This is the woman whose light shines brightly as a leader or a woman of talent or potential. Too many women are afraid to own their power for fear of offending some imaginary, critical body. When given praise or their gifts are acknowledged, they frequently turn their eyes to the floor and shake their heads in dissent. The mask of modesty has the effect of disempowering a woman from truly being the force that she could be. It’s somehow been accepted that women were not created to either “rest on their laurels” or even accept having them acknowledged aloud. Modesty may keep many women from speaking up and speaking out, which contributes to the creation of a culture in which women’s silence is accepted and still in some places, expected.

Mask of the Ostrich

This is the woman who refuses to speak up for or against an issue or concern, be it right or wrong. She has the ability to look away from events or social engagements that spur the majority of others to speak up or speak out. She deals with drama or conflict by averting her gaze; it’s as if she goes beyond embodiment of the phrase, “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil,” simply not to see, hear, or speak at all. She does not choose sides or address any issues directly; she merely hides behind a mask of unawareness and disinterest. It’s not that she doesn’t have strong opinions, good ideas, dark thoughts, or inspiring words that she might share, it is just that she intentionally disengages from the opportunities in which they could – and should – be shared.

Mask of the Crowned Queen

Most of us recognize the “queen” as we walk into a meeting room; she carries herself with regal posture and with no apologies for her strength and her expectations of being heard. The abilities to silence others with her gaze or communicate disdain and condescension with her eyes are skills that keep her in her place in the hierarchy as much as anything she might actually say aloud. She owns power and less powerful others are sometimes grateful for her willingness to take the lead. The queen typically enjoys her power and privilege and maintains it through dedicated efforts to keep other women from moving any further closer to the front than her own coattails. She is never apologetic for her opinion or her high self-regard. She commands and others deliver. It’s a system that works for her and she is using her power to the max.

Mask of the Shrew

This is the mask that women who want to be heard — but do not have the regal privileges owned by “the queen” — might feel forced to wear when their opinion differs from the majority. Unable to feel confident or unlikely to be noticed if she were just to state her mind, a woman may feel the only recourse is to turn on the unappealing, but seldom unnoticed, behavior of the shrew who cuts through the air with a sharp word and cutting remark. While the shrew is hard to mistake, she is also able to gain the floor even when her tone repels others, but her attitude gains her access.

And When the Mask is Removed . . .

Who is the woman standing underneath the mask of the modest? Or the temperate? The ostrich or the queen? It could be any of the millions of women who have amazing, innovative ideas; street smarts; book smarts; common sense; and uncommon gifts. It could be any of the women who are still feeling silenced in this world – whether it is a result of their raising, their culture, their experiences, or their fears. It is a shame that even today, while men can show up “just as they are,” and be confident that their words will find airspace, women often feel that they must put on airs or armor to gain a slice of airtime to share their own ideas.

The challenge today is to find a balance between overweening confidence and well-earned competence and speak from that centered place of deep knowledge or articulate questioning. Perhaps the surest way to support the transition to showing up as they are is for women to practice embracing and supporting the women who have the courage to do just that today. Make space for the women whose voices are obscured by masks of pretense or defense and perhaps the rest of the world will follow suit in time.

Who are you, when you take off your mask?

This article was found at:https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/lifetime-connections/201703/5-masks-some-women-hide-behind-shouldnt