Masks We Hide Behind

Jasmine Schmidt Health Guide
  • Got your Halloween costume picked out? Well, maybe you’re helping your child or grandchild choose a costume, but with Halloween right around the corner it got me thinking about the masks we all tend to hide behind on a daily basis.

    It seems that whenever a potentially embarrassing situation confronts us, it is human habit to hide behind a mask of some kind. When in debt, we go out of our way to seem completely comfortable financially in front of our friends. When we don’t understand the punch line to a joke, we laugh even harder. When we show up for an important event only to realize we’re either over- or under-dressed, we make up a story about everything else being at the drycleaner’s. It seems that in order to “save face” we are willing to put on almost any face – as long as it’s not ours!
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    If we’re willing to go to these lengths just to seem that we’ve got it “all under control” financially, that we understand every joke the first time around, and that we rarely, if ever, appear in public looking like this, it stands to reason that we’d go to some pretty hefty lengths to hide incontinence. We do this to blend in because we don’t want to risk standing out and looking different.

    But, I’m willing to bet that almost every adult has felt, at one time or another, that they were in over their head financially; has failed to understand what exactly was so funny about that joke; and has felt inappropriately dressed for an event. I won’t say that “almost every adult” has experienced incontinence – but a whole lot of them have.

    My question today is this: What might the world be like if we all chose to remove our masks? What would happen if we re-wrote the “rules of life” so that we no longer had to hide or make excuses for those things we feel embarrassed about?

    I have one friend who plays by these new rules. She often doesn’t understand my jokes, and at first it can be a little uncomfortable when she doesn’t laugh and instead looks at me with a blank stare. But, when she realizes she missed the punch she simply says, “I don’t get it” with a quizzical tone. I explain the joke, and sometimes she gets it, sometimes she doesn’t, and sometimes I realize that I’m the one embarrassed because it turns out it was a bad joke to begin with. But it’s not the end of the world, and it turns out that our friendship can withstand this kind of brutal honesty. It’s not just the jokes, this friend is honest about everything (or so it seems), and it can seem a little out of the ordinary at first, but in the end it all works out for the best.

    What might happen if we were to do the same with incontinence, and stop hiding it? What if, when a friend invited you to attend a fair, you say, “Gee, I’d love to, but I hesitate to do things like that since there won’t be a bathroom nearby?” Do you think your friend will hang-up the phone and never invite you to anything ever again, or do you think they might ask what you would feel more comfortable doing instead? (I’ll give you a hint – it depends on the kind of friend you’ve got). What if, next time you’re stuck in a middle seat on an airplane, you simply say to the person in the aisle seat, “I’m sorry to bother you, but my bladder doesn’t always give me much notice, so do you think it might be possible to switch seats so that I can reach the toilet a little faster?"

  • Does this brutal honesty mean that you’ll never be embarrassed again? Of course not. We’re all only human, and we all have emotions – and embarrassment is one of the strongest among them! But I do believe that by thinking ahead and creating some light-hearted and honest responses to some of life’s more common uncomfortable situations, we can begin to live a little more authentically and possibly a little more happily. This year, I encourage you to join me in celebrating Halloween by taking off your mask and instead just be yourself!
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  • How do you communicate with others about your incontinence? Talk about it in the message boards.


  • Read step by step guides to coping with incontinence.

Published On: October 30, 2006