Masks have been one of the features at the core of our Corona World. Increasingly we see them displayed in various shapes, colours and forms but we are gradually getting used to them. Initially they were worn reluctantly – and their value debated by the experts – but as the lockdown has continued, I suspect many have chosen to wear them to show their support in stopping the spread of the little beast. But it feels like we might be getting closer to not needing them. It might still be a little time ahead (unless we plunge backwards again) but the smell is in the air. We are girding the loins. We are ready to get the economy going. We are ready to get back into real life.

The big question for Men is whether they step back into wearing the metaphorical mask they wore Pre-Covid. These are the emotional masks we hide behind as Imposter Masks, to make sure the world doesn’t discover who we really are. It’s our way of hiding our secret vulnerability. We’ve needed them at home, especially when Zoom is staring us in the eyes, but mainly we’ve taken a small sabbatical. A breather.

It’s our way of hiding our secret vulnerability.

Stepping back into the big world will be Men’s biggest challenge.  Have we been able to change enough during this shut down to learn important lessons to take forward with us? We have no idea of how the world is going to change but change it will. Have we had time enough to reflect on who we really are? What, at the core, drives us? Have we discovered that we’re all in this together – the whole world – and does this make us more united? More humble? More caring? More generous? More open?

Women will definitely want to know all of these things. They have semblances of masks but on the whole they are more willing to drop them and genuinely connect, especially with their female confidants. Sadly, men have been driving forward like bats out of hell over recent decades as the pie seemingly gets bigger and their opportunity of getting a massive slice becomes their sole modus operandi. Why do Australian men in midlife commit suicide 5 to 6 times as often as Australian women of the same age? It’s not because the slice is bigger or tastier. It’s because they have locked out everybody else. Metaphorically it’s not always a mask – alternatively it can be a mirror which surrounds men’s heads and forces them to see only themselves at all times. It’s a dangerous way to hide from the world, especially when it closes off people with genuine concern for your wellbeing, including family and friends.

It’s a dangerous way to hide from the world, especially when it closes off people

Brendon Gale, CEO of the Richmond Tigers, spoke at a function I attended late last year. Why had the Tigers become a major force in the AFL over the last three years? Boiled lollies to chocolates. Gale reckoned it wasn’t just about players becoming fitter, faster and stronger than the other Clubs. It was a question of them removing their masks when they joined the Club and giving themselves permission to be their authentic selves. This lends itself to connecting with others. To being a real team. It shows. The way they play and the Flags they win.

What does “our authentic selves” really mean?

What does “our authentic selves” really mean? In truth, it’s hidden so deep inside all men that it’s hard to know. The Imposter Mask I was referring to causes us to fake who we are and worry like hell that we never get found out. It also comes in many models, shapes and sizes, all ready to come out as required. In reality, we wear a mix of masks throughout our waking hours. Sometimes it’s hard to know which one to put on.

In his 2017 book The Mask of Masculinity, former American professional sportsman Lewis Howes talks about the mask. He exposes the ultimate emptiness of the Material Mask, the man who chases wealth above all things; the Aggressive Mask, worn by the man who wears it as a proof of manhood; the Invincible Mask, used to convince the world we feel no pain, no fear. All of these masks are about emptiness. A sense of “lack”. And of course the Sexual Mask. No explanation needed. 

My father was all about the Stoic Mask, the “stiff upper lip” and the “big boys don’t cry” Mask. It took me many years to discover I had an empathy button and when I pressed it, a whole new world opened up.  

As Oscar Wilde said, “Be yourself, everyone else is taken.”

If nothing else, during lockdown we have had a chance to slow down and reflect upon our lives. Of course, I absolutely acknowledge the reality for those who have suffered unimaginable setbacks, including job loss, family crises, mental health issues and family deaths from Covid19. To mention only a few. But even for these people, men and women, young and old, maybe it’s still a chance to reconsider the false values that we had in our lives.

maybe it’s still a chance to reconsider the false values we had in our lives.

So, as you emerge, taste freedom like you never have before. Freedom of knowing that Covid brought us all back to size, that we really don’t have to prove anything to anyone. I read a beautiful blog today on nature and the natural world. Let’s admit it – we’ve really missed it.

To sniff the air, to open our lungs, to breathe deeply is at the core of our humanity. As well as hopefully being able to ditch the medical masks, we’ll also recognise the detrimental negative effect that the emotional masks have on our health.

Albert Camus said, “in the midst of winter, I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer.”