Man of Many Masks

When I was growing up and even well into my twenties I remember always wishing I was somebody else, somebody with more athletic skill, somebody who was more intelligent, definitely somebody who wasn’t a geek who had to wear glasses and couldn’t hear well.

This created in me this insane ability to switch from mask to mask depending on where I was, who I was around and what I was doing. It got so confusing that there was a point in my late twenties where if you were to ask me who I was, I didn’t have an answer. I was so worn out that I couldn’t even figure out who I was, what I was good at and don’t even ask me why I was doing something. I probably looked pretty good from the outside. I went to church, bible study groups, was even involved in children’s ministry. In my professional life I was a fairly good sales person drawing a fairly good income, nothing outstanding but right there in the middle of the pack. My marriage was okay, we liked each other a lot but I think we were playing patsy cake with the hard issues, always managing to skirt around difficult conversations by being too busy or too tired.

But on the inside…

To the world though I most likely looked pretty well put together. However, and this was a huge however, on the inside I was a total mess. I called them masks and I had gotten so good at interchanging which mask I had on at different times that I mostly didn’t even know I had a mask on. All of my masks had one thing in common though.

Rather than do the hard work and figure out who I was, what I was good at and why I should be doing what I should be doing, I copied other people around me. I would make sales calls and rather than be myself I would act like the really good sales people that I observed and read about. I used my favorite Tony Robbins line “Make it a great day!” just like every other sales person out there who was willing to read some books and listen to tapes (long before the birth of the podcast my friends). Today “Make it a great day!” causes severe gag reflexes when I hear it because I know somebody is just copying it because the great sales people, the highly successful and motivated people say that all the time. It makes me gag so bad now that if I receive an email and the tag line says after their name “Make it a great day!” that I’ll delete the email without even reading it. I think I need therapy.

Discovering Who You Really Are

The fact of the matter is that it took me years to discover that I could be me, the real true me and it was okay for me to run my own race and not feel the pressure that I needed to run a different person’s race because I was designed an original. I and you for that fact have really incredible gifts and talents that are all your own, nobody else is quite like you and it is going to be okay to start running your own race, at your own pace and not copy how anybody else is running their race.

One of the very first things you learn when you enter a race is that you have to run your own race. Most people learn this the hard way and I am no different. There I was lined up for my first 5K all ready to go and scared out of my wits. This may be hard to picture but I was the tallest and perhaps roundest runner I could see anywhere — 245 odd pounds of rolling muscle, somewhere under all that baby fat, and with my Kangoo boots giving me an additional 5” I looked tall. I knew better than to go to the front of the pack as that was where all the real “runners” were. I was intimidated as all get out because everywhere I looked there were all these athletic looking people — long legs, narrow waists, no apparent fat anywhere — and I was not at all like them. So the gun went off and we took off. In the back of my mind as we hit the half mile mark I’m thinking “this is not going to turn out well” as I was booking along with kind of the front of the middle pack. And then the wheels fell off. Just as I got to the first mile I had to pull off to the side as I felt like I was going to barf, my whole body ached and I honestly believed I was having a heart attack. I did finish the race but I learned a valuable lesson that day. You have to run your own race and you can’t focus on the other racers around you because they have to race their own race also.

Finding Your Foundation

Imagine if there was a way to learn this early on in life also. Hebrews 12:1 says “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” I spent so much of my early life trying to please other people and fit in that it got to a point where I didn’t even know who I was and it was a hard process with lots of ups and downs to get back to running my own race. And that my friends is what that verse from Hebrews means. We are all hindered by the things that aren’t getting us any closer to who we were designed to be. The challenge is that we keep wearing those things, the habits and thoughts that entangle and hinder us. In order to run the race marked out for us we must throw these things off and begin to run the race marked out for us with perseverance.

The deeper you go in finding your foundation, the more you will not have to pretend to be somebody you’re not. The more you do this, the more you run your own race and discover the joys of finishing well.


Visit Mike at  and find more of his work here

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