Behind The Mask

Behind The Mask


We Wear the Mask

WE wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
And mouth with myriad subtleties.
(Dunbar, 1-5)

Two years ago, I worked with someone who greeted me daily with, “I am trying to feel you out.” I thought it was hilarious that this person spent so much time trying to figure out the type of person that I am. We live in a world where people are constantly being judged. Despite countless efforts by many promoting originality and being one’s self, many people continue to define others by what they say and do. Our skin color, size, and even hair color are used to categorize individuals.

As mentioned in my first blog post, I am an educator. I began my teaching career many years ago working with students with an emotional-behavioral disability. They are the students who are unable to control their emotions and many times lack the social skills needed to be around large groups of people. As terrible as this may sound, they were the students most school personnel didn’t want in their building out of fear. I worked with a group of young men on a one-on-one basis to help them deal with their anger and behavior and also encouraged the students to develop their own solutions to problems. I tried to find creative ways to improve the lives of these young adults but they struggled to deal with their emotions and feared how people perceived them. It is because of those fears and judgement by others, many of my students lived behind a mask. Sometimes I would look and compare them to Anakin Skywalker, who also lived and hid behind a mask. But, what happens when the mask comes off?

Before becoming the of the most powerful, cunning, strategic, and hated villain in the galaxy, he was Anakin. While many people feel contempt towards Anakin/Vader, I can’t help but feel solicitude towards him. By now, those of you reading this have figured out that Anakin/Darth Vader is one of my favorite characters. When I look at him, I see a man with a tortured soul who hides behind years of the pain and challenges he had to face throughout his life. I see “him,” Anakin Skywalker, and I look beyond the mask.

Born to an enslaved mother, which in turn made Anakin a slave until his freedom was purchased by Qui-Gon Jinn , a Jedi who believed he would bring balance to the Force. To become a Jedi, one must be able to control their emotions. This is one area that Anakin grappled with constantly. Believing he was the “Chosen One,” Anakin had to leave his mother, the first woman he ever loved to become a Jedi. As a young man, he had to suppress the memory and his attachment to the person who gave him life.

As he got older, like most heterosexual young men, he was attracted to the opposite sex. He fell in love with Padme, a woman he could be himself with and would later marry. He shared his innermost feelings of joy, passion and even nightmares with her. Unfortunately, a Jedi can’t be married and Anakin had to live a life of secrecy. While serving as a Jedi, he was unable to share his love for Padme. Anakin had to live a life behind a mask.

Unfortunately for Anakin, when the mask came off, he was already at a point of no return. He committed unspeakable acts towards those he cared for the most. Unable to no longer control his emotions and living behind his invisible mask, he gave in to the power of the dark side.


We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries
To thee from tortured souls arise,
We sing, but of the clay is vile
Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
But let the world dream otherwise,
We wear the mask!
(Dunbar, 10-15)

Unlike Anakin, my students were in an environment where they learned how to control their emotions when the mask came off. They learned how to assess their fears and perceptual reasoning about the things around them and acted accordingly. This was no easy task. It takes years and, often, groups of individuals to help these young adults achieve their goals.

Over the years, I’ve come to realize that many people walk around hiding behind a mask. After all, everyone acts differently based on where they are. Wearing a mask may not always be awful. But the big question is this, what happens when you stop hiding behind the mask?

I love to interact with people and appreciate feedback about my blog. Leave a comment on the site or contact me by email at and on Twitter @geekchic9


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Poetry selections taken from “We Wear the Mask” by Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906).

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  1. MJ
    August 30, 2015 at 10:58 Reply

    Sandra, kudos to you for your work. I am sure that you helped a lot of people deal with their anger.

    Great post! You’re so right. There’s talk of the different selves – the one we show publicly, the one that our friends and families know, and the one that we show no one but ourselves. I know that I am happier the closer to one another my selves become.

    1. Sandra
      August 30, 2015 at 18:04 Reply

      Thank you so much! I have worked with many kids. I still keep in touch with many of them. Yes, we all have different selves.

  2. Melinda
    September 1, 2015 at 10:24 Reply

    I am a mother, a wife, a writer … a daughter, a sister, a friend … I have been a teacher, a receptionist, a sales clerk … a U.S. Marine. I’ve always considered these identities as wearing a different hat, not so much a mask, but to a certain extent, I suppose a mask is put in place when I take on one role or another.

    Then again, at least in my own case, I don’t think I wear a mask in any of those cases. I am just me. I don’t know how to be anyone other than who I am.

    I know that is not really what you were depicting in your blog, Sandra, but it got me thinking…

    Probably the time I was most in jeopardy of having to don a mask was when I joined the USMC. Well, I didn’t really see it as such, but others did. How could a “free spirit” (as my mom referred to me) join the Marine Corps (of all branches of the military service)? The Marines would change who I was, or force me to wear a mask to fit in. Even at 27, my mom didn’t see me very clearly. I always was one to be my own person. My parents could not change me to be someone I didn’t want to be (oh, they tried!), so I saw little hope of the USMC succeeding where my parents had failed. (I’m serious when I say that.) To make matters worse (in my mother’s eyes, in particular), even though I could have been an officer (I was a college graduate), I CHOSE to go enlisted — in order to work in the air wing. Here I was — a female headed for the smallest faction of the smallest branch of the armed services! I was an anomaly, and everyone in my squadron knew it. But you know what? That was a good thing — both for them and for me! 🙂 They got exposure to someone who did not fit the norm, and I didn’t change one iota. I stayed true to myself (even as a Marine).

    It’s a shame when someone feels the necessity to wear a mask to fit in. (There are those who do so to dupe others in order to take advantage of the unsuspecting, but that isn’t what I’m talking about.) Like you said, it takes too much effort to wear a mask. While one might not want to wear one’s heart on one’s sleeve, exposing everything to everyone right away, it’s best to just be oneself. I know that can be difficult (especially in school; children can be so cruel. 🙁 ). I think it is absolutely wonderful you have dedicated yourself to helping young people. 🙂 Your students are lucky to have you! 🙂

    Like you said, Anakin certainly wore a mask — especially after marrying Padme. Living his double life took its toll on him, and look what it led to. As horrendous as it was, I could understand Anakin’s unbridled fury when he went on his killing rampage through the Tusken Raider camp, but I did not feel the same understanding when he donned the mask of Darth Vader (first figuratively), and went on his rampage through the Jedi Temple and beyond.

    And while Anakin felt it necessary to wear a mask at times, no one was a clearer example at wearing a mask in the Star Wars galaxy than Darth Sidious/Chancellor Palpatine was. In wearing his mask, Palpatine was driven by selfishness, greed and the need for power. He hid his true motives so very well. I like to think there is a lesson there.

    I’ve taken up enough of your time, Sandra. Sometimes my comments on my fellow CWK writers’ blogs can get almost as long as my own lengthy musings! lol 😉 This was a great entry, and I look forward to reading more from you! 🙂

    MTFBWY 🙂

  3. Jay Krebs
    September 12, 2015 at 08:53 Reply

    Ahhhh, Anakin…we love him, don’t we? Despite evrything…

    I, like you, am a teacher. I uderstand exactly what you’re talking abut in your entry.

    Although I don’t exclusively teach special needs kiddos, I have a class in my Family and Consumer Sciences curriculum that teaches life skills to SPED kids in high school. Many of them have discilinary issues as well.

    One of the units I teach in my personal development class is about bulding positive self-esteem. I use the movie “The Breakfast Club” (edited version, of course), and actually developed a lesson called “The Masks We Wear.” As part of the process, we dissect each character by their “mask”, (princess, brain, basket case, etc.), then look at what self-esteem issues are really going on.It’s a real eye-opener for the kids, to realize that underneath those masks, we all have issues. We all have insecurities, and you can’t always judge a book by its cover. It generates a lot of discussion.

    I’m not sure what level SPED you have, mine are usually pretty high-functioning (and usually the ones no one else “wants”…), but if you want the lesson and the activities, let me know and we can hook up!

    Great entry, Sandra! 🙂

  4. Jay Krebs
    September 12, 2015 at 08:55 Reply

    Lord have mercy…typos…! darn tablet keyboard lol! I REALLY need to be more careful…

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