We all wear a mask at some point in our lives. Though we may not always be consciously aware that we put the mask on, or that it might still be worn today. Through the process of self-discovery and inner reflection, one is able to identify this mask and begin to remove it, revealing the Authentic-Self. While everyone is responsible for their inner actions, including the donning of the mask, it’s important to recognize that the individual is not the sole designer of it. Each individual constructs their own mask from unique life circumstances, influenced by factors such as where they live, what they see on TV, what they read in the news, and what they hear from political and cultural leaders. All these dynamics have a direct impact on the shape, color, and design of the mask they choose to put on. As the culture and these influences evolve, for better or worse, so will the mask.
Once one recognizes his or her own mask and begins the process of removal, that individual can also begin to recognize the mask others wear. This leads to increased empathy, compassion, understanding and a deeper relationship with others and with Life Force. Going past the nuances of the outer design and channeling deeper into the why one puts a mask on we start to see patterns. One such pattern is a distinction that develops when we look at the masks worn by the Masculine and the Feminine.
It's important to note here that I am referring to the Spiritual Masculine and Spiritual Feminine essences. I'm not equating Masculine with “male” or Feminine with “female”. Instead, I am referring to unique life forces inherent in all individuals. Typically, someone may possess a predominant essence, with men often having more Masculine energy and women more Feminine energy. This is a broad generalization for simplicity. It is entirely normal for a woman to embody more Masculine or a man to embody more Feminine.
Studying the mask worn by the Masculine can help provide valuable insights into one’s partners, colleagues, peers, and self. In this writing, we will explore two common masks worn by the Masculine in today’s Western society: The Mask of Machismo and the Mask of Hubris.
The mask that many are already familiar with is the Mask of the Machismo. This is the mask that people traditionally envision when the term “masculine” comes to mind, conjuring images of the greedy CEO, frat boys, and James Bond. A classic, though somewhat clichéd, portrayal of this mask is the “1950s man” as depicted in shows like Mad Men. The culture has evolved a bit since then, and the Mask of Machismo isn’t as Don Draper as it used to be - or at least not as blatant – but it is certainly still prevalent. This mask can be seen being worn by the man boasting on about how much bourbon he can drink or how large his paycheck is. Within any “pissing contest” you can find two men wearing this mask. This mask lives in the gym, sculpting the body while ignoring the psyche. It is eager to fight others to show dominance, but never faces the challenge of the internal fight of its own inadequacies.
The man wearing the Mask of Machismo introduces his kids to athletics and takes pride in their accomplishments but feels anger or embarrassment by their failures. He continues to be the provider, which is not a bad thing. But when his mask demands him to be the top provider, then it becomes a bad thing. It may not be clear, but this mask holds our masculinity hostage to our paycheck and ensuring it’s the biggest in the household.
When tragedy befalls, the Mask of Machismo does not allow for the showing of emotion, perhaps by choice or inability. It deceives the man, insisting that stoicism is required by his family. By preventing him from acknowledging his own fear and addressing what lies beneath, this mask only adds more strain to those in the wearer’s life. The man wearing the mask fears the Feminine and attacks it. He belittles the power of the Feminine in attempt to hide his underlying fear. He also belittles his own emotional power and leans on the Feminine to do his feeling for him.
This mask is filled with shame.
Many men have recognized the existence of this mask and rejected it only to put on a new mask, the Mask of Hubris. This mask has evolved out of the Machismo, which is why it looks down on it. The man wearing this mask sees through the Machismo and its hidden workings in other men but does not address the root of the mask within himself. The reason he put a mask on in the first place has not been addressed and his new mask now comes to the surface. This new mask can be just as harmful and repressive to his inner psyche. The Mask of Hubris is one of submission and conformity. It condemns aggression and uplifts compassion at all costs, even when it is inappropriate. This mask loves self-deprecating jokes.
The man wearing this mask understands the power of the Woman but not his own. He looks at the Machismo and feels shame towards all men. In doing so, he feels shame towards himself, gives up his own power, and dons this mask. This man knowingly or unknowingly accepts weakness and looks for the Woman to carry him. He has lost touch with his inner warrior and with himself. The arrogant, macho boy has been replaced with the clumsy, aloof father, incapable of leading and typically the butt of the family jokes. This mask has become popular in modern day TV and movies. The person wearing the Mask of Hubris recognizes and praises the outward warrior in the Feminine, rightly so, but incorrectly discourages his own warrior energy or those associated with the Masculine. This mask is worn by keyboard warriors, appeasing politicians, and mother’s sweethearts.
This mask is also filled with shame.
Most men are not aware they are wearing a mask. Recognizing and accepting its existence does not remove it completely, but is the first and largest step towards authenticity, self-acceptance, spontaneity, and fulfillment. When a man removes his mask, he finds his Authentic-Self.
The man in touch with his Authentic-Self recognizes the systems in place that are established to shame us, and then disregards them. He is empathetic to himself. He studies the inner workings of his psyche and emotional well, or at least recognizes them and allows for their existence. He is aware of when he is angry and when he is loving. He accepts his flaws but does not apologize for them or exert himself trying to hide them.
A man in his Authentic-Self does not attempt to overpower the Feminine but does not serve Her either. Rather, he rejoices in their differences and finds joy in the flow between tension and union. He serves his own life’s purpose, which may encompass his wife, family, career, and interests; however, he does not prioritize them nor their wants over those of his purpose. What we see in the Mask of Machismo, is a man who confuses himself as a king, serving himself instead of his purpose. What we see in the Mask of Hubris is a man who has no purpose and lives as a servant to others. A man in his Authentic Self recognizes his own purpose, and lives to serve it. He is one step closer to achieving spiritual freedom.
It would be wise for individuals to recognize these masks in their partners, fathers, brothers, sons, colleagues, friends, and selves. The observed actions of these individuals may not be authentic to their true selves but rather a mask they’ve donned to conceal shame. Most often they are not hiding this shame from others, but from themselves. It stems from a wound that they have carried for quite some time, most likely unknowingly. Whatever the relationship to this man may be, recognizing the existence of his inner wounds and the mask he wears to cover them immediately brings compassion into the relationship. In doing so, one brings light and healing not only to the man, but to oneself.