Although I indulge in watching viral videos, I rarely play them more than once. But I can’t seem to stop watching Adele fooling a bunch of her own impersonators by pretending to be one of them. There is something Shakespearean in the way she dons a prosthetic nose and chin, feigns a bad case of nerves, and then jolts her audience into ecstatic recognition with a raspy refrain of “To Make You Feel My Love.”
– Nelson Mandela
One of the reasons I love this video so much is that many of us, including yours truly, are like Adele, hiding our inner rock star until the moment when we can reveal ourselves and be recognized for our magnificence.
We all wear masks that we show to the world, reflecting various aspects of ourselves. The mask we show to our colleagues — for example, strength and confidence — may be different from the one we show to our neighbors and relatives, who get to see our more charming, self-effacing neuroticism.
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Sometimes, these masks are worn intentionally and for good reasons — you wouldn’t discuss your recently broken heart with a job recruiter. They can also be a way to cope. Many children begin to wear masks when they feel their natural self will not be loved and accepted. Sometimes, it may be necessary even to wear the mask of, say, the smiling daughter if she knows that expressing fear, anger or sadness will be met with scorn, disapproval or something much worse.
Yet these masks prevent others from really seeing us, which leads to feelings of loneliness and isolation. We can even become so accustomed to our masks that we begin to mistake them for who we really are.
We all have gifts and the capacity to give. So many of my clients secretly wish to remove their masks and, like Adele, be received by adoring fans. It’s the same for love on a smaller scale, which becomes possible only through courageous honesty and faith in the worthiness of what we have to share.
In fact, a growing body of research popularized by best-selling author Brene Brown, actually shows that taking off our masks to reveal our vulnerability is the path to successful relationships. Moreover, such exposure has a domino effect: taking off our masks inspires others to do the same.
We all need to be seen and appreciated for our authentic selves; it’s a condition for personal growth. In this season celebrating peace and light, may we all take a cue from Adele by grabbing the microphone, tapping into our heart and belting out that special song only we can sing.