Being Mindful of the Masks We Wear

The first step to being our most authentic selves is investigating which of our qualities we’re willing to show the world, and which we’d rather hide.

When I came back from India after that long trip teaching math, I began teaching my students meditation and I realized that my students didn’t understand meditation, just like I didn’t when I was in high school. I started doing this once a week. I said we’re going to start with one minute and we’re going to just sit quietly with our eyes closed. I’m going to turn the light off. My students had such a hard time with just one minute, and I was like okay well next week we’ll do another minute, and the next week we’ll add another minute. Practice on your own if you want but we’ll just do it, we’ll add one minute every week. I got to the point where around week seven I was focused on teaching math so I forgot about meditation, and a student asked what was up with our meditation? How amazing is it that? I have forgotten but this young man had decided that he was getting something out of it and wanted to meditate again. That’s when I began to realize that we can all learn to do this.

It doesn’t take anything special, I’m not a special meditation teacher, I’m a math teacher. So the fact that I was bringing meditation in, someone could be like, that’s not math related. But why does it need to be? Why couldn’t math be more holistic about how we learn about ourselves in our world?

Today I want to share an exercise that I do with my students. You can continue the breathing from last session, but today I want you to write something. And if you don’t have a way to write right now with paper and a pencil, you can go to if you’re in front of a computer or you can just think about it in your mind.

Revealing the Masks We Wear with Others

Watch the video:

Listen to the Audio:

Being Mindful of the Masks We Wear

  • 7:53

Follow the Practice:

  1. If you have a piece of paper, fold it in half. If not, follow the directions online or visualize doing the following. On this piece of paper we’re going to do a self-reflection exercise. It may feel challenging but just do your best.
  2. On the left side of your piece of paper draw a picture of a mask, whatever you think a mask looks like. There’s no grade on this, just draw a mask, whatever shape, whatever you feel resonates really well with you.
  3. On the same side as the mask, write three words or three phrases that are qualities of yourself that you gladly let people see.
  4. On the right side of the paper which represents the back of the mask, write the things you don’t usually let people see. The writing on the back of the mask is different from the front of the mask, normally you don’t talk about these things. This is just for you. What are the things about yourself that you normally don’t let people see? Write it down.
  5. Take a breath. Breathe. I want you to just take in what it felt like to write those words. Realize that there are people all over the world probably having similar experiences.
  6. Share your mask. On the front of my mask I wrote funny, serious, and hard-working. Those are the things I gladly let people see. On the back of the mask, the things I normally don’t talk about include my fear of failure, my sadness about death, and sometimes not feeling like enough. I encourage you, if you feel comfortable, to do this exercise with somebody you know and just see where you can begin sharing a little bit more of yourself.
  7. Be a little bit more of your true self. When I show up into a room, or at work, or at school, or at play, or with friends, am I able to be all of myself? Those places where I’m not, how could I be a little bit more of myself? We’re going to test out being a little bit more of ourselves. Maybe there are some places that you don’t need to have the mask so tightly attached.

I hope as you think about this, that you find and think about the people in your life who you can begin being more of yourself with.

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About the author

Ashanti Branch

Ashanti Branch is the founder and executive director of The Ever Forward Club. In 2004, during Ashanti’s first year teaching high school math, he started The Ever Forward Club to provide support for African American and Latino males in school. He works to change how students, especially young men of color, interact with their education and how their schools interact with them. Since then, Ever Forward has helped all of it’s more than 150 members graduate from high school.