Behind the Painted Smile

12 04 2007

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“I can’t let them know who I really am, Kelsey,” she said with pain in her voice, “Because they’d be so disappointed if they knew I wasn’t doing as well as they all think I am — if they knew I don’t have it all together.”

I tried pulling her out of the mental hole she’d fallen into; I said she was merely human, just like everyone else, so she wasn’t perfect, just like everyone else. But the topic was closed and she had no desire to be thrown anymore ropes.  She wanted to stay in her hole.

Like so many other people, this young girl had decided she couldn’t allow anyone to see the scared, broken, hurting person behind the mask.

Life: The Masquerade

We learn at a young age that life is a large and elaborate, 24/7 masquerade ball, and if you’re going to play the game, you have to hide your shortcomings, struggles, pain and imperfections behind a painted smile, just like everyone else does.

Unfortunately, while we watch the endless parade of smiling, confident faces stroll past us, we often forget we’re attending a masquerade ball, and that almost every face is completely hidden from view behind a bucket full of paint. Everyone else appears beautiful and put together, so we desperately cling to our own masks a little tighter, hoping no one will notice the confident, perfect grin we’re showcasing will smear the next time it rains.

It’s the domino affect in action, and it starts with just one person deciding to sport a mask. The people around them then analyzed their own wrinkled, pimply faces in the mirror and decide they’re falling short, so they invest in masks, as well. Before long, there isn’t a single person left who even remembers what it’s like to be transparent, honest and real.

Broken and Scary   

We’re told we’re suppose to be as normal and all-American as The Brady Bunch, but if people truly knew us, we’d all probably come closer to resembling The Addams Family – eccentric, dark, a little scary, and just downright weird.

People are hurting, grieving, living, and dying alone.

And the most heartbreaking part is there are others who are just as scary and broken as they are, but they’re also hiding behind a painted smile.  Just like everyone else.




12 responses

12 04 2007

you’ve got an amazing blog thanks for commenting on mine

Thank you, Moey.


12 04 2007

Kelsey, you are such a perceptive and intuitive young woman that you amaze me.

I don’t know why people do this and I’ve pondered it many times myself. I think perhaps it just hurts too much for some people to be who they are. They don’t like what they see or hear or perceive. Perhaps it has something to do with their childhood or the food they ate when they were three, I dunno.

But I think that life is always better when you are you. Even though it might be scarey or downright unpleasant at times. But that takes some guts and a lot of people don’t have guts, they’d rather pretend than be real.

You can’t change them but you can lead by example (which you do wonderfully) and maybe you will inspire someone to be themselves too. I’m sure you already do.

Great, insightful post, sweetheart.

It does take guts to just be yourself. It’s strange how it can be easier (at least in the beginning) to pretend to be someone completely different. It seems like it should be the other way around. I don’t understand why acting is so much easier, but it definitely is.

I’ve know several people — and read books, articles and blogs by others — who have lead by example when it comes to being transparent. Instead of thinking less of them, because I heard from their own mouths that they had problems, I had a lot more respect for them, because they were genuine, human, and I could relate with their struggles, pains, fears and shortcomings. Transparency is a beautiful thing.


12 04 2007

In writing this post you pulled the mask away. The dominos will fall and others will do the same. And I’m jazzed about that!!!

Thank you, Catherine. I hope people do slowly, but surely begin to learn how to take of thier masks. Hiding who we are helps no one and hurts everyone.


12 04 2007

I totally agree. The scariest thing is when people start to confuse the mask with reality, when you get so good at numbing or hiding the hurt, that you mistake it for healthy acceptance. Just tonight I realized how sometimes I even still try to wear a mask with Eric, fortunately he loves me enough that he notices and won’t let me. But it’s eye opening and terrifying to realize that no matter how much progress you make in becoming honest and transparent with others and especially yourself, you still have behavior patterns formed by years of unhealthy defenses. I’m so thankful to have the Lord. I know I can’t wear a mask with Him, and it’s so good to be able to hand those hurts over to Him in return for His comfort.

12 04 2007


It is scary how it can become easy to mistake the mask for our own reality, because we can get so comfortable wearing it.

Back in high school, my best friend at the time decided to join the “cool kids.” It was sad, because she traded people who truly loved and cared about her — the person she really was, not the one she thought she had to be — for a group of “friends” who were judgmental and cruel even to their own. She lost several friendships forever, but the saddest part was she lost herself in the process.

She called me twice to apologize for snubbing me, and to tell me she was done with her new “friends” and was going to go back to being her old self again. It never happened. The second time she called, she told me she had no idea who she’d even been before. I had a clearer sense of who she’d been.

She traded her own identity for a pair of different clothes and a group of people who didn’t even truly like her. Of all the things she lost, I think her own identity was the most heartbreaking thing that was gone.


13 04 2007

I just sat down to read Grace (eventually) and read this sentence and had to share it with you……..”I hate masks, because you can’t breathe right, or see very well through the eyeholes.” Anne Lamott.
She was talking about halloween masks but I think it applies even more to the painted smile kind.
Hope your day is going well Kelsey!!!

That’s a great quote! Thank you for sharing it, Catherine. 🙂


13 04 2007

It’s because we’re afraid to be ourselves because of society. Think- if everyone spoke their mind and if everyone cared, nothing would get done. Any mask worn is worn to keep status on the social ladder.

I was thinking about the concept of people “removing their masks” more in regards to relationships and the way it can hurt everyone to at least some degree.

I’m not suggesting everyone should forget all common sense and say anything that happens to be on their minds. I just don’t think people should have to perform while living out thier daily lives to the same level actors do while on a stage, and they shouldn’t feel like they’re failing if they’re not Mary Poppins perfect.


15 04 2007

What a great post!
I’ve missed just sitting and reading like I used to.
Thanks for being yourself in the real world!

Thank you, Tim.
It’s nice to have you back on WordPress again. 🙂


16 04 2007

very well articulated. love your perspective, very truthful and real. it’s refreshing!

Thank you, Stuart.


18 04 2007

Kelsey, I admire you for the strength you show in your writing. The courage it takes to talk of your personal pain and growth.
I look back and can see through most of my life I wore different masks. Even different masks on the same day, just depending on who I was with at the time. I spent so much time pretending to be someone, I really did loose sight of the real me. I regret all the wasted time, trying to impress others that really didn’t care to begin with.
Thankfully, I have been able to give up much of that. I still hope others like me and accept me for who I am. But now I just don’t care enough to worry about it.
Always love your posts, keep up the good job
You are always in my heart, thoughts and prayers

It’s amazing how we can wear several masks even in the very same day! It’s sad that the desire to be liked and valued for who we are is the very thing that often drives people to the point of pretending to be someone else.


20 04 2007

Hey Kelsey, I thought it was funny how you had a thing about this in your blog because in my class at church we had a thing about masks, and how just about everyone has one. It’s true, we all seem to have a painted smile… no one’s life is perfect like we all try to make it look like it is.

Your little sister,

I find it sad that so many people try to hide the fact that their lives aren’t perfect, because no one’s life is; we’re all fully human, which means not one of us has it all together.

Thank you for your comment, Shannon. 🙂

Your sister,

29 04 2007

I went through this, and in the end God really convicted me to get rid of the pride I was holding up. We put on a show because we don’t want to ruin our reputation, but the reality is we are all human and there’s not a single person in the world who does not have a problem.

When we confess our problems, showing that we have weaknesses and letting God change you, it is one of the greatest forms of worship. Because by doing this, you are humbling yourself and allow God to be your strength. In our weakness we are made strong when we put our faith in Jesus.

It took me a while to do this, but I’m glad I did, and praise God that I no longer have to carry the burden on my own.

God bless.

Welcome to my blog, Victor. Thank you for taking the time to comment. 🙂

I agree, confessing our problems and being transparent is a wonderful act of worship.

Too many people — especially in the Church — hide their weaknesses and shortcomings because of pride and fear of what would happen if their “perfect” reputation was tarnished. If anything, it seems like Christians would be the most apt to be real, because we’ve already admitted the fact that we’re sinners saved by the grace of God alone. We can’t do it, we don’t have it all together, and that’s the whole point.


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