One of the constants of the past year-plus of the Covid pandemic has been the wearing of masks. From the industrial-strength N95s for the super vulnerable to the ubiquitous disposable light blue ones handed out at doctors’ offices, to the colorful washable new market products, we all had masks. At least for those of us who accepted the threat as real and participating in the precautionary trio of 20-second handwashes, 6-foot social distancing, and mask-wearing whenever we encountered anybody outside our home.

Whenever there is a danger it is wise to take precautions and be prepared, and it is important to consider the danger to others as well as to ourselves. Interestingly, along with these precautions helping to curb the spread of the Covid virus, it has also reduced the instances of colds, flu, and other respiratory-related illnesses during the pandemic. So we all benefit from this mask-wearing. And mask styling has fueled a whole new market.

But in the midst of this, there is one area to avoid wearing masks. Not physical but psychological mask-wearing. It can take a couple of different forms. One is self-promoting—trying to appear to be someone we are not. We put on fronts to impress others and gain an advantage in lieu of actual achievement. We often believe who we are is not enough, that people will not accept us as we are. So we put on a mask of appearing larger than life. It is “fake it till you make it” on steroids.

The other kind of mask-wearing is hiding. We put on a face of happiness— the “I’m fine” response, when in fact we are so far from fine. We respond to the social niceties with an automatic ‘okay.’ Part of the fault is that someone asking how we are is a greeting pattern that we have learned without expecting an honest response.

We need to first develop a good sense of who we really are and be okay with that, and then find those around us who will encourage us to simply be ourselves. And we need to have the wisdom to know when a mask is required (Covid) and when it is not (fear). So what kind of mask are you wearing?