What I Wish I’d Known About Masks

We walk the pup, my girl and I. School is a few weeks away and as we turn the corner of the main cross street in town, our conversation turns to the “popular girls” and true friends. Nearly thirteen, I know the struggle she faces. I remember those years well, and I share my own story.

During the span of five years that began when I was ten years old, we moved four times. Never very far, but enough to change school districts several times. From one elementary school to another, up to middle school, back to elementary school in a new district, up to junior high, up to high school, and finally another high school.

It wasn’t an easy age to make new friends, especially as an introvert. But I began to look forward to each new school. While it would be so much more impressive to say I had the heart of an adventurer and welcomed the opportunities each move would bring, the truth is I looked forward to only one opportunity: a fresh start to be what I always wanted to be – outgoing.

I would imagine the first day at a new school and in my mind I could see myself smiling, talking, laughing with other girls and quickly making new friends. I would plan to wear just the right outfit, give myself endless pep talks, and put on my biggest smile. With each new school I would think, “This time I’ll finally get it right.”

I never, ever did.

It took a long time for me to see the futility of trying to be someone I’m not. I was even lousy at pretending.

Nowadays, people talk about putting on masks. I was doing it long before it had this fashionable name. Our masks are as varied as our personalities, desires, and perceived shortcomings. But they all have the same goal: covering up what we think cannot be loved, and presenting to the world what we think it demands.

I’ve read it only recently, and the words are swirling fresh in my mind. I tell my girl what I wish I’d known:

No one told me that when I wear a mask, only my mask receives love.

We can gain admiration and respect from behind a mask. We can even intimidate. But as long as we’re behind a mask, any mask, we will not be able to receive love. Then, in our desperation to be loved, we’ll rush to fashion more masks, hoping the next will give us what we’re hoping for: To be known, accepted, trusted and loved.¹

I’ve watched her grow so much in this last year, accepting her own quiet nature as the gift God intended it to be. I’m desperate for her to live without masks. She’s slowly learning to take hers off.

In hope,

This post is linked with Faith Barista’s Faith Jam, sharing my thoughts on “What I Know Now.”

¹Lynch, John, Bruce McNicol, and Bill Thrall. The Cure. San Clemente: CrossSection, 2011. 29. Print.

About Shelli Bourque

An ordinary girl living by the grace of life in Christ. Adoring wife and mom. Lover of quiet places and uncluttered spaces. Beauty seeker and image maker.


  1. “No one told me that when i wear a mask only my mask receives love.” My 13-22 year old self just sighed, teared up a little, and said I wish I had known that too. Love this.

  2. Shelli,

    I am guilty of wearing masks too. I always felt out of place and “wrong” wherever I was so I put on masks to fit in. And then, I’d wonder why no ever understood me. My younger self needed to know all this too.

  3. I needed this lesson as a pre-teen into my teenage years, maybe then the masks wouldn’t be so tempting now. Great letter, Shelli!

    • Thank you, Jennifer. Yes, masks are still so tempting. Every time I teach my girl, I’m reminding myself as well.

  4. “they all have the same goal: covering up what we think cannot be loved, and presenting to the world what we think it demands.” I am just now, at 33, learning to be free, in Christ, from How I Am Supposed to Be. It is a wonderful feeling. I loved your letter, Shelli – especially as you framed it as also a letter to your girl. I wrote mine to myself in my late teens/early 20s. My children are still younger than 10 and thankfully not facing the deep issues I wrote about today. I pray they never do.


    • Oh, Genevieve. Your story is one of heartache and hope. Thank you for sharing the hard and the beautiful.