By John O'Leary. This was originally posted on JohnOLearyInspires.com. When John O'Leary was 9 years old, he suffered burns over 100% of his body and was expected to die. He is now an inspirational speaker and bestselling author, teaching more than 50,000 people around the world each year how to live inspired. John's first book, ON FIRE: The 7 Choices to Ignite a Radically Inspired Life was published March 15, 2016. John is a contributing writer for Huff Post and Parade.com. John is a proud husband and father of four and resides in St. Louis, MO. Order John’s book today anywhere books are sold.
Remember those masks we used to wear on Halloween?
No, not the modern masks my children grew up wearing. I’m referring to the old-school, far cheaper, far more dangerous ones; the ones that scratched our faces with dangerously jagged edges, had eye cutouts that never actually matched our eyes, and had a rubber band so cheaply fastened to the mask that after just three houses, the band would break and we’d spend the rest of the night holding a bag of candy in one hand and our mask in the other.
Remember THOSE masks?
This time of year, masks are mainstream for adults and kids alike. Halloween gives us an excuse to lean into childlike playfulness, get dressed up for a night and be someone radically different than we typically are.
I love Halloween. And I love getting dressed up for it. (For proof of that, check out the photo of Beth and I at a Halloween party last year!)
But for many of us, masking our true selves isn’t reserved for once a year. For many, it’s Halloween all the time.
We wear masks in seeking approval from others.
We may mold our words, our opinions and even our appearance to fit whatever room we’re in. And in trying to fit in, we may go along with things we disagree with and pretend to be who we’re not.
In hoping to be somehow more worthy of being accepted, we cake on makeup less to amplify our natural beauty and more to hide perceived imperfections.
In pursing success, we stay so busy and run so fast so we can avoid letting others see our shortcomings, our weaknesses, our scars.
We strive not to become the best version of ourselves, but to become worthy in the eyes and opinions of others.
And yet in the end, we still feel too fat or skinny, too old or young, too accomplished or marginalized, too unconnected or broken. Someone else always has a better house, better family, better job, better physique, better life.
I spent decades wearing various masks, trying to measure up and fit in. Always joking, always partying, always busy, and finding myself too frequently feigning confidence, quietly struggling, and often longing for something more.
And in that time, I found that joking often masks pain. Anger masks fear. Addiction masks longing. Arrogance masks insecurities. Busyness masks meaninglessness.
Removing the mask of inauthenticity, however, liberates us to fully embrace who we are, whose we are, why we’re here, and what matters most.
So rather than losing the comparison game by attempting to measure up to someone else, consider a far better comparison. Compare yourself each day with who you are, who you were, and who you could become.
Tonight, we have a wonderful excuse to get dressed up, act like a kid, give out candy, sit around firepits, visit with friends, have a couple beers and toast life. Tonight, the streets will be packed with kids wearing costumes, gleefully filling buckets with candy, racing through neighborhoods.
But as the last visitor departs, the firepit is extinguished, and the candy is sorted, let’s agree to put away the masks along with the rest of the costumes until next year.
And then starting tomorrow, let’s strive each day to become the best, most authentic version of yourself.
Today is your day.
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