As the week of Halloween begins, spirited decorations are in full display. Pumpkins, spiders, ghosts, Jack-O-lanterns, witches, skeletons, tombstones, and other eye-opening, fiery objects adorn festive homes awaiting the spookiest night of the year. Children are riveted by the anticipation and excitement of the big night, carefully selecting costumes and eagerly looking forward to the annual candy feast and trick-or-treat march from house to house.
Halloween’s Hidden Symbolism
Halloween also evokes symbolism that is difficult to ignore. Masks, wigs, hats, hoods, swords, capes, gloves, full-body armor, and over-the-top makeup serve to disguise and give refuge to those of us who have been wearing these contrived costumes throughout our lives. Of course, I refer to the figurative costumes we have contrived throughout our lives.
Where do these disguises come from? Why do we feel we need them?
Many of us live our entire lives without realizing that the person we portray ourselves to be is not the real us, or who we truly are in our innermost core being. These disguises—the mental and emotional costumes we wear throughout our lives—become our shield behind which our authentic being resides. They create a distance between us and threatening people and circumstances that we face.
Why do we conceal our true self from the world?
This is a longer, more complex story, but here is the concise version: As we develop during childhood and into adulthood, the relationships and interactions we experience heavily impact our identity, our self-concept. In fact, our genuine self is hidden far beneath the many layers of disguises. These “costumes” or disguises we acquire develop subconsciously, most notably after we face challenging and painful circumstances that cause us to retract. We find ways to protect our heart, and as such, rewrite the script of who we are to protect ourselves.
Our Disguises Become Our Defense Mechanisms
The belief that we are unworthy is a byproduct of facing negativity and not knowing how to handle it. The majority of us have not learned how to deal with criticism, rejection, abandonment, betrayal, and other damaging interactions. These burdensome events often lead us to believe that we are unlovable and inadequate. Our brain instinctively protects us from painful situations and potential hazards.
Our response is to create ways to preserve ourselves from further pain by developing thought and behavioral patterns that conceal and suppress our vulnerability and fear. For instance, if we have self-doubt, we might portray ourselves as being overly confident or unafraid. Or, if we fear rejection, we might boast about how many friends we have and how popular we are. These psychological mechanisms build upon each other without our being fully cognizant. With time, who we are in our authentic being is blunted by who we pretend to be.
Similar to a child wearing a superman costume behaving as though they are the most powerful and invincible superhuman, our learned response to threatening circumstances is to act tough, impenetrable. ‘I am absolutely fine, even though my spouse just betrayed me,’ or ‘I lost my job, but that’s fine, I didn’t like it anyway.’
One of my favorite quotes is by Ralph Waldo Emerson: “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” It takes more courage to live in congruence with your inner soul self than to hide behind disguises. And, this is truly an exhausting way to live, and one that erodes the quality of your life.
Be Present to Your Life
When you live with facades, those disguises that conceal, you are not able to be fully present in your life. It is as though you are watching your life from a distance, behind a gate, or a thick wall, or looking through a blurry window. The layers and layers of protective facades that build up through the years disconnect you from yourself. What happens is that you are living with one foot in, one foot out—one eye, one leg, and half a mind and heart engaged in your life. Seriously.
Too much valuable energy is expended pretending to be this artificial person in order to “look the part,” to be bold, daring, assertive, strong, unshakable, unsinkable…So much so that you disparage your authentic thoughts and emotions. And, in so doing, you are diminishing your ability to wholly feel and experience everyday life. This state of existence causes tremendous stress and discomfort.
Eliminate These Disguises to Attain Inner Freedom
In the core of each one of us is the desire to dive into the heart of life, to self-actualize by reaching one’s full potential—emotionally, intellectually, physically, and spiritually.
It takes a vast amount of energy to maintain a false front.
Imagine how free and energized you would feel by fully accepting yourself, by being able to live as the real you. When you let go of the pretenses of living as someone other than you, that freedom will enter your being.
Transformation will take place within you. Releasing these defensive layers will enable you to heal from past wounds. You will be aligned with your core being, you will develop compassion and understanding for who you are, and allow yourself to grow in ways you never imagined possible. Shedding these disguises is like unwrapping bubble wrap off a beautiful painting. The colors, the textures, the emotions flow freely, unrestrained, with clarity and passion.
Why don’t you envision this year’s Halloween week differently? Why not think of it as a springboard for self-healing and self-care, for self-knowledge, self-respect, and self-honor?
Your path to developing inner strength, stamina, resilience, and inner peace begins when you choose to live fully, without shame, fear, or self-doubt. Without any facades.
You have a special and distinct place in this world that only you can occupy, and in which only you have the ability to flourish—harness this privilege and start living the life you were meant to live.