Wearing a Mask
Who am I?
by Claire Law
Suitable for Whole School (Sec)
To consider what it means to ‘wear a mask’ and why we may choose to do this.
Preparation and materials
You will need the PowerPoint slides that accompany this assembly (Wearing a Mask) and the means to display them.
- Have available the YouTube video ‘Masks’ and the means to show it during the assembly. It is 2.51 minutes long (although you only need to show the first 1.29 minutes) and is available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RJRvQIZDmOw
You will need four students to read one stanza each of Charles C. Finn’s poem ‘Please hear what I’m not saying’. They will need time to rehearse this prior to the assembly.
Show Slide 1.
Ask the students to think quietly about how they would answer the simple question, ‘Who am I?’
Pause to allow time for thought.
Perhaps they were thinking of their name as an answer, such as ‘I am Sarah’ or ‘I am Joshua’. Alternatively, perhaps they were thinking about a word that they feel describes themselves, such as ‘I am smart’ or ‘I am useless’. Of course, how we answer this question may well depend on who is asking it, where they are asking it and when they are asking it.
Social media often makes us want to present or project an image of how we want to appear, or how we want others to perceive us. So often, the way we present ourselves, or the person we appear to be, depends very much on the setting. This means that we don’t always act in a way that is totally truthful. It may be that we want people to think about us in a certain way, or to think certain things about us. When we try to change how people see us, instead of being the ‘real us’, we might say that we are ‘wearing a mask’. People can’t see what we are really like.
Show Slide 2.
Ask the students to think about two questions as they watch the video.
- What does it mean to ‘wear a mask’?
- Why might people wear a mask?
Show the YouTube video ‘Masks’, stopping it at 1.29 minutes.
So, what does it mean to wear a mask?
Ask the students to contribute their answers, or read out the list below, if you prefer.
- To pretend.
- To act in a certain way to influence how others see us.
- To say or do things to impress others.
Show Slide 3.
We say that someone is wearing a mask if they are hiding how they really feel or who they really are. They are pretending to be someone other than their true, authentic self.
Why might people wear a mask?
Again, ask the students to contribute their answers, or read out the list below, if you prefer.
Show Slide 4.
- To fit in.
- To fulfil other people’s expectations of them.
- To avoid getting bullied.
- To hide fear or feelings of not being good enough (low self-esteem).
- As a wall to stop them getting hurt again.
- Out of habit.
- To hide the fact that they are not sure who they really are (their authentic self).
Let’s listen to an abridged version of a poem that expresses what a mask is, why someone might choose to wear one and the feeling that deep down, we want to be honest and authentic with each other: we want to take off the mask.
As we listen to the words of the poem, let’s think about the masks we wear. Do we change ourselves so that we fit in? What would it feel like to be the real us?
‘Please hear what I’m not saying’ by Charles C. Finn
Don’t be fooled by me.
Don’t be fooled by the face I wear
for I wear a mask, a thousand masks,
masks that I’m afraid to take off
and none of them is me.
Pretending is an art that’s second nature with me,
but don’t be fooled,
for God’s sake don’t be fooled.
I give you the impression that I’m secure,
that all is sunny and unruffled with me, within as well as without,
that confidence is my name and coolness my game,
that the water’s calm and I’m in command
and that I need no one,
but don’t believe me.
I’m afraid you’ll think less of me,
that you’ll laugh, and your laugh would kill me.
I’m afraid that deep-down I’m nothing
and that you will see this and reject me.
I don’t like hiding.
I don’t like playing superficial phony games.
I want to stop playing them.
I want to be genuine and spontaneous and me
but you’ve got to help me.
You’ve got to hold out your hand
even when that’s the last thing I seem to want.
Only you can wipe away from my eyes
the blank stare of the breathing dead.
Only you can call me into aliveness.
Each time you’re kind, and gentle, and encouraging,
each time you try to understand because you really care,
my heart begins to grow wings -
very small wings,
very feeble wings,
Time for reflection
If, at times and in certain situations, we know that we tend to wear a mask and pretend to be someone we are not, how can we be ourselves more often? How can we be us? How can we remove the mask?
Let us take time to reflect upon these questions.
Show Slide 5.
The first step to removing a mask is to be aware of it.
- When are the times we find it hard to be ourselves?
- Who do we feel safest with, when we can remove our masks?
To be aware of our mask, we need to have the time and space to reflect on who we really are.
- How can we give ourselves time to discover the real us?
- Do we ever consider who we really are?
- What words spring to mind when we think about how we can honestly and authentically describe ourselves?
How can we become more aware of the ‘real us’?
- Would keeping a diary or a journal help us?
- Who can we trust to be honest with us as we seek to understand who we really are?
Sometimes, it is hard to be real and authentic.
It is easy to wear a mask and to hide our feelings and who we are.
Help us to remember that you have made us and love us, just as we are.
Help us move towards greater self-awareness and understanding.
Help us to be honest, take off our masks and make good relationships with others.