In 2012, I went for a Halloween party for the first time in my life. That was during the period of time when I did my student exchange programme in Hong Kong. I was not really sure what to dress up as and so in the end, I decided to buy a ready-made ghost costume from Toys “R” Us. And that was when I put on a physical mask for the first time in my life.
Wearing a mask is actually quite a liberating experience. That is especially so for a person like me who sometimes gets a bit awkward in social situations. The mask allowed me to walk in any direction I wanted and be as anti-social as I wanted to be. I felt that I was not judged by anyone in any way. Even if people were to judge the person wearing the mask, they were not actually judging me because they did not know the person behind the mask. After all, my face was hidden by the mask and nobody would know who was wearing that mask if he/ she did not bother to talk to me. The mask brought some kind of security.
Brene Brown talked about finding strength in vulnerability. In her Ted Talk, she said, “What underpinned this shame, this “I’m not good enough,” —which, we all know that feeling: ‘I’m not blank enough. I’m not thin enough, rich enough, beautiful enough, smart enough, promoted enough.’ The thing that underpinned this was excruciating vulnerability. This idea of, in order for connection to happen, we have to allow ourselves to be seen, really seen.”
I believe in being authentic and being true to who I am. But sometimes I wonder if the concept of being vulnerable and “really seen” is appropriate in the Singaporean culture. Will people accept you for who you are? Will people understand that because you are only a human with emotions, you will make mistakes? Will people forgive you and give you another fair chance? Or will you be condemned as a person who is too weak, unprofessional and imperfect? Will choosing to be vulnerable too risky a move to take? Or will choosing to numb the vulnerability and appear stoic be a safer option?
Sometimes I catch myself thinking of the comforts that the mask offers. So even if people judge the person wearing the mask, they are not actually judging me because they do not know the person behind the mask.