I am sure you’ve heard the expression, “I wear many hats”, meaning I carry out many roles – mother, wife, teacher, etc. But do you also wear many masks? I had someone ask (who was getting ready to meet my parents), “How should I act?” I thought it was one of the strangest questions I had ever been asked. I answered, “Just be yourself.” But I started observing this person and noticed that she changed when she was with different people. When her wealthier friends came over for dinner, the best china, the formal dining room, and the conversations were more elaborate. When people from her church came over, everything was much more down to earth. As I got to know her better, she shared her childhood abuse with me. She had been locked in closets, beaten, and sexually abused by an alcoholic father. She was taught to act the way she thought the people around her wanted her to act. She ended up wearing many masks.
A few years later, I went to work in a hospital in the Psych and Addiction wards. I realized just how prevalent this was. Most had been abused as children and were searching for their identity. Few had ever heard the words “I love you” as children and most had married into similar situations as adults. Self-love was foreign to them. The CEO of that hospital, who was a MD, stopped me in the hallway one morning and said, “Toni, do you know how to get these patients better…You love the hell out of them.” I have never forgotten that. When people don’t know how to love themselves, we have to teach them. I often have clients make daily list of their valuable assets. Their gifts from God. If they can’t see them at first, we have to point them out to them. They’ve been taught that they are worthless. We have to show them how valuable they are. Please, look around you, at work, in your social circle or your church and let everyone know how much you value their relationship with you. Spread love, everywhere you go. It is so needed in today’s world!
Toni True-Wills, Ph.D.