Does Your Mask Fit? Your REAL mask!


Chief Sam DiGiovanna

Photo Courtesy of Landon Jensen

As fire service personnel we know fit testing evaluates the interface between a firefighter’s face and the SCBA face piece mask to ensure a proper and correct fit. Without these fit test of our mask and face, harmful and deadly by-products of combustion can enter our system.

Then there other types of masks that are put to the test. These are the emotional/psychological masks we hide behind. For example, if we are insecure, we might hide behind the mask of name-dropping or acting like some tough guy/girl. If we are unsure of our power, we can hide behind the mask of being a bully. If we don’t think the world loves us, we can hide behind a mask of anger. We mask the debt we’ve incurred to pay for lifestyles we can’t afford; we pretend things are fine at work when our jobs are on the line; we pretend things are okay in our marriages when there is distance or anger.

No one knows the masks you wear more than you – Though don’t kid yourself! Others see it too, you just aren’t aware of it. Perhaps your mask is creating a blind spot within?

I read this article with interest from Psychology Today: Its a good read!

As the article from Psychology Today reports there are three practical reasons why we should shed our masks.

The first is to live to our potential. We have to bring all of who we are to what we do. There are numerous people who have our same skillsets, or maybe an even better one. But none of these people bring the same personality, creativity, and spirit to the job that you do. That’s something they can’t match. The irony is that we often mask that part of ourselves at work and lose our greatest potential.

The second reason is relief. It is exhausting to live an inauthentic life. You put on a mask or two or 10, then take a few off, then put a couple more on. It’s exhausting! Worst of all, you start forgetting who you really are. As comedian and actress Fanny Brice explained, “Let the world know you as you are, not as you think you should be because sooner or later, if you are posing, you will forget the pose, and then where are you?”

The third reason is healing. When we wear masks, we carve a piece of ourselves out—withholding parts of ourselves as unworthy. But in relationships, we can’t be truly healed unless we offer up all the pieces. It’s like handing someone a broken vase and asking him or her to fix it but holding back two or three of the broken pieces.

We weren’t born with masks. We put them on, so we can take them off. Start with this simple exercise: Think about a negative message you have held onto. Ask yourself whether it is true?  More than likely, the answer is no. And if it is not, then you have to ask these questions: Why am I carrying that message? If I put it down, what would happen? Probably nothing. The main risk we face is the world’s reaction. Opening yourself up threatens others; it invites them to reevaluate their own lives. Many times, it forces them to realize that they too have the power to change, but they haven’t.

Don’t let that stop you. Don’t pull your mask partially off then let the world scares you into putting it back on. As the poet E. E. Cummings wrote, “The greatest battle we face as human beings is the battle to protect our true selves from the self the world wants us to become.”

There’s a great song by the rock band the Who titled “The Real Me.” Listen in: Something many struggle with.

Think about the masks you wear and commit to taking them off. Hold your gifts out to the world—no apology, no shame, no regrets.

Remember this quote: “Do they love you or the mask you put on every day?”

Source: Psychology Today “the Masks We Wear”

About Chief Sam DiGiovanna

Sam DiGiovanna is a 33-year fire service veteran. He started with the Los Angeles County Fire Department, served as fire chief at the Monrovia Fire Department and currently serves as chief at the Verdugo Fire Academy in Glendale, Calif.