“Love takes off masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within.”- James Arthur Baldwin
I often read or hear people saying, “Love me for who I am.” The funny thing is that most people don’t show up as who they are in their relationships. We wear our masks and say, you should love me for who I am. How can you expect someone to love you for who you are when you are constantly hiding who you are?
True love requires you to be unmasked. It sees beyond your defenses and the ways that you hide your true self. It requires you to show up as the real you and accepts nothing less. I believe that, sometimes, we fall in love with the representative. The representative is the one that shows up when family is around. The representative is the person that we date. The representative hides all the part of ourselves that we think that someone else will reject or that we have decided is the unworthy part. The representative says things the right way and tries to do everything perfectly. The representative hides behind expensive things and never expresses true feelings.
I think that people marry the representative. But, no one can keep up pretending 24-7 and 365 days of the year. It is impossible. The more time that you spend with someone, the more you will start to see through the representative. When you start to see through it and you point it out, it creates anger and resentment. No one wants to be unmasked. People want you to believe in the mask. They don’t want you to see behind it or challenge it. You are supposed to accept it, because if you require them to be authentic then they have to deal with their own stuff. They have to ask themselves why are they using the representative. They have to risk rejection or they may even view your questioning as rejection because they reject that part of themselves.
I think the reason so many relationships fall apart is because people are trying to be loved with their masks on. They don’t want to do the work that it takes to unmask themselves to the person that loves them. Instead of taking the true challenge of accepting the parts of themselves that they want to hide, it’s easier to be mad at the person that is trying to know and love the real you. You reject that person the same way that you reject the part of yourself that you hide beneath the mask.
But, I believe that it’s our duty in this lifetime to step into our authentic self with at least one person in our life. Our larger goal is to present our authentic self to the world. Every person wants to be seen. They want to be seen for who they are. But, if we continue to hide who we really are, then we prevent others from really seeing us. It’s our job to peel back the layers and reveal our truth. I get the feeling that when someone says, “Love me for who I am”, that they are often saying, “Love my defenses, vices and habits. Accept my mask.” But, that is not true love. True love sees beyond all the roadblocks you create to try to prevent it.
Unconditional love doesn’t mean that you can do anything and still receive love. Unconditional love says: I see everything about you and I love you even when you do things that I don’t agree with. True love will love you through the process of becoming more authentic. Iyanla Vanzant describes intimacy as “Into Me See”. You can never have intimacy until you allow the person to see into you and remove your mask. If you are lucky enough to have someone who wants to work through that with you, you should lower your defenses and allow them to love the real you. You were made to share your true self. It’s going to be scary, but it makes life worth living.