the masks we wear

Coming to a place of wholeness within yourself requires a complete undoing.  That may sound counter-intuitive, but there is a lot of nonsense and programming that needs to be identified and dismantled before you can even catch a glimpse of your true, shiny self… lots of dust will need to settle before the lungs of your soul can take their first real breath of fresh air.  You may discover that you have been wearing many masks – one at work, one with family, one that hides your pain and insecurities, one with certain friends but not others – oh and make sure you definitely don’t wear that mask with that friend – what would they think of you then??  Would they still love and respect you?  Would they think you are insane?

Eventually we have so many masks that we’ve fragmented ourselves into dull, one-dimensional robots that do things we don’t want to do, laugh at jokes we don’t think are funny, filter our words, hide our true feelings and desires, and make really uninspired decisions.  These masks are programs that we have carried with us since our youth – Bill Plotkin refers to them as our loyal soldiers.  They stand by our side and protect us through our childhood, helping us to be loved and accepted by our caretakers and the world around us, making us socially acceptable, and helping us survive trauma.  They keep us safe, but they also keep us small and limited, pushing parts of us deeper into the shadows.  Eventually, the war ends, and it comes time to thank these brave soldiers, honor them, and let them be on their way.

It is natural to feel a bit lonely through this process – as the soldiers start to march off, you find that your authentic self is in uncharted territory.  Old ways of being and interacting with the world are no longer an option.  This is when things can get scary – when you peel back the layers, bring light to the shadows, and start to figure out who you are, your whole world as you know it starts to shift.  It gets harder to keep switching masks… it’s exhausting.  In the spirit of speeding up this process a bit, I’m going to go ahead  and just tell you some things that I don’t want you to know about me – my fears, my messiness, my truths in this moment – so that I can start to put these masks away for good.

I am a dirt-worshipping, tree-hugging, ritual-loving animist. I have practiced the old pagan ways that lie deep in my ancestry as well as modern witchcraft, and I believe that both science and magick are real.  I have practiced what most people refer to as shamanism and followed the beat of a drum to other realms.  I have taken plant medicines that blasted me open, dropped me to my knees, and taught me what it means to surrender.  These experiences have been some of the most beautiful and formative of my life, but I fear that many people will think I am a flaky, crazy, or maybe even a little evil.  With that said, I also feel like a phony because I still use too much plastic, eat burgers made with poorly sourced meat, buy clothes that were likely made in sweat shops, and enjoy watching extremely unenlightened romantic comedies.

I am working to decolonize my mind and dismantle the internalized racism and sexism that exists within myself.  I have always and continue to benefit from white privilege.  I have mindlessly appropriated other cultures and harmed the earth.  Patriarchal wounds run deep, and I still cling to blame and shame… there is forgiveness of self and others that needs to happen, lots of tender spots that need mending.  I am trying to own my shit, the ways in which I have caused and continue to cause harm, the ways I have perpetuated the divide between the masculine and feminine, and I still have a lot of work to do.

I am a highly sensitive person, and I feel everything very deeply.  This may not sound like a problem, and it is a gift in many ways – but my nervous system goes into complete overwhelm (or paralysis) very easily.  Having people tell me things like ‘get over it’, ‘just don’t worry about it/let it get to you’, or ‘stop being so sensitive/emotional’ are about the most unhelpful things someone could say.  I have felt my heart break a million times over the grief of the world, as well as the grief of my inner worlds, and sometimes it is just too much.  I have never really been able to hide my emotions, because they flow through and out of me like a tsunami.  Sometimes I try to stuff it all down so as not to be perceived as irrational, overly emotional, or neurotic.  I can be really, really hard on myself.  At the same time, I am also a huge, silly, goofball and sometimes wonder how I pull off passing as an adult.

If you are successful, wealthy, a free-spirited traveler, living your dream life, if you feel free to share your wild and sexual nature openly and without shame, and especially if you are a woman, I have probably spent time feeling extremely envious of you.  If you are a woman who ‘has it all’ – especially one who got their shit together in your 20s – you may have felt daggers shooting from my eyes.  I have spent time wondering what karmic debt prevents me from having it all myself, I’ve regretted choices I’ve made in life, I constantly feel like I am too late, and I’ve felt shame collecting so much debt going school for a career I am not currently passionate about.  I have a very dysfunctional relationship with money, and I roll my eyes when people who have never had to worry about their finances tell me to just take the leap and manifest my reality.  And yet, I sabotage myself every time there is an opportunity to say yes and take a leap.  I am afraid of stepping into my own power… of what that means and who I will be.  I fear I will never get out of my own way.  I am scared to let go of my loyal soldiers who have kept me safe for so long… I send them away, but then beg them to stay.

At 36, I feel more sexually and sensually alive then I ever have in my life. Not just in the obvious way you may be thinking, but in the opening the floodgates to a creative life force that sets my soul on fire sort of way.  I want to feel free to express this without judgement, slut-shaming, feeling unsafe, or being limited the confines of old paradigms that serve neither men or women in living from their fullest creative expression.

I struggle with loving myself exactly as I am and have to work really hard at it.  I am afraid that I will never find someone (including myself) who loves all of me, my light and my darkness, and sometimes I worry that I may die alone.  In many ways I still grasp for outside validation – through relationships, fulfilling societal expectations, social acceptance, and doing what I think everyone wants from me.  I have spent time people-pleasing, trying not to be too needy, too assertive, too emotional, too much.  I’ve tried to be the nice girl (which is very different from a kind woman).  I struggle to feel beautiful in my own skin, especially as my body changes with time, more lines appear on my face, and I don’t fit our society’s high standards of beauty.  The cruel voices of self-criticism are getting quieter and harder to believe, but they pounce at the slightest sign of weakness.

I have had times in my life where I’ve fallen deep into the depths of depression and anxiety.  In some of the worst of those times, there were abusive people, too many recreational and prescription drugs, and I didn’t recognize myself in the mirror.  It felt like it would have been easier to just not exist.  These times ultimately pushed me towards the most beautiful medicine and healing I’ve experienced, but I feel like I am always looking over my shoulder to make sure they aren’t creeping back up on me.  I can be pretty self-absorbed in maintaining my interior landscape and not be attentive to what is going on around me.

I am painfully and exquisitely human, and working to love and accept all of me.  I have much work to do, yes, but I also love myself and feel more beautiful and whole than I ever have to date, and have made self love and care a priority.  I am getting intimate with my messiness, and honoring my vulnerability as a gift and not a weakness.  This is a homecoming.  I am reclaiming every part of myself that has been lost, scared, ashamed, or tamed.  I don’t expect that what I say and do will resonate with everyone, and that it perfectly fine… but it is time for me to speak and act freely from my heart, and I no longer wish to filter myself to make you (or myself) more comfortable.

3 Comments Add yours

  1. María Esther Maness says:

    Hi Gina, there is a lot of power and truth in your words. I too had to wear many masks as a young woman. Now at 64 I wish I had lived my life true to me and my needs. But it’s not to late for any of us. We can have a self without feeling selfish. Don’t listen to society, listen to YOU. You are a beautiful human being now and always. 💜🙋🏻🙏💜🌺

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Gina Puorro says:

      Thank you Maria for your kind words, and for your wisdom, beautiful woman!


  2. Thanks for the post. Its true about the masks. I believe we unpeel them rather than put on different ones. Your.honesty is refreshing to read. Think about labels next. White privilege is just a label for example. We need to examine our labels and know rhat they are just that.finally we all die alone so although its a worry its just a fact.

    Liked by 1 person

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