Why We Wear Masks

The Japanese say we have three faces; the one we show to the world, the one we show to our family and friends, and the one we never show anyone outside of ourselves — the last one being the truest reflection of who we are.

Why We Wear Masks
No face, no case! 🔫🔪👺

No Face, No Case

The Japanese say we have three faces; the one we show to the world, the one we show to our family and friends, and the one we never show anyone outside of ourselves — the last one being the truest reflection of who we are. What this tells me is that we don't actually have three faces, we have one, and the "faces" we show to everyone outside of ourselves are actually masks. Just like criminals, the reason why we wear masks is because we are afraid to reveal our true identity. Unlike criminals, revealing our true identities would likely not lead to jail time but it would bring consequences all the same & the scariest consequence of them all for people is that of being judged. So, we wear masks, not just to navigate social dynamics and to fit into societal roles, but also to protect our one true identity. Because subconsciously, if one of my masks gets rejected from a job, or a relationship, or a community, it won't hurt as bad because I can convince myself that it wasn't the real me that got rejected.

I truly can't stomach it the way I used to, but I once enjoyed listening to drill music. Drill music is music that is centered around drilling — or killing — the opposition. Though the music itself is often dope, the sentiment behind it & the culture it has created troubles me. Especially because the performers of this music typically look like & come from the same sort of background as me. A common saying by the performers on these drill songs is "No face, no case", meaning that if they get you while masked up, they won't have to face any consequences. If no one sees who they truly are, they can't be held accountable. And I've found that we wear masks for the same reason. Because it's much more comfortable to wear a mask and pretend to be someone we're not in order to be accepted than it is to reveal who we actually are and run the risk of being judged for, or held accountable for, not being as pretty as our masks portray us to be. Or in the case of these drill rappers, not being as tough or hard as they portray themselves to be.

Was looking for a pic of drill rappers wearing masks and this was one of the first results. I have no idea who they are but apparently they're a drill group from Kenya lol

The truth about anyone who is attracted to a gang is that they're likely afraid and feel vulnerable and what they're seeking in the gang is a sense of protection and stability. The gang itself is a mask because, whether we'd like to admit to it or not, we all want to be accepted by and supported by society. The gang is a mask that projects to society: "We don't need you, we don't care about belonging, and we don't care about being protected," when in reality, the opposite is true. This creates a culture where young men spend most of their time hiding — from the law, from their parents, from their friends, and, most damagingly, from themselves.

I know this first hand as a Black man who used to be a Black boy who romanticized gang life. The most appealing part about joining a gang to me was becoming "unfuckwittable" — that is, belonging to something so intimidating or powerful that no one would dare try me. Of course, this desire was rooted in the fact that internally I felt super vulnerable. Super sensitive. Super afraid. And so, I desired to wear the mask of a thug because I felt like it would protect me. In order to put myself in a position to no longer be hurt, I had to project an image of being someone with a willingness and a desire to cause hurt. And I see myself in the eyes of many of these little black boys who have put on masks to become the boogeymen that society expects them to be. It's a vicious cycle; blackness is dehumanized, leading to ostracization, exploitation, and being forgotten. This results in feelings of hurt and victimization, which drives masking and becoming the victimizer. Sadly, when we wear masks long enough, we eventually forget that they aren't who we truly are. And although I don't have the space to dive into it in this piece, I see much of Black American culture as the product of having to mask ourselves and appear superhuman to compensate for a society that has been committed to making us feel less than human since America's founding.

The Clothes Make the Man

Cowardice often hides behind a mask of terror.

One of the most famous masks in American history is that of the Ku Klux Klan. Members of this gang wore masks not just to hide their true identity but also to intimidate and instill fear in the people they wanted to terrorize. I'm not quite sure what it is, but there's something particularly unsettling about these pointed white masks—something haunting, which I'm sure was intentional. Because the goal of the Klan was not only to physically harm those they viewed as enemies but also to mentally manipulate them into believing the Klan's power was supernatural. War is fought on every plane of reality, and since the dawn of humanity, humans have used masks to try and defeat their enemies mentally before any physical blow is struck.

That introduces another reason why we wear masks: they allow us to become someone we're not, empowering us to act in ways we wouldn't feel capable of without them. And cowards, like those who join the Klan or other gangs, value intimidation because it grants them a power to manipulate others that they simply don't have without the mask. We're taught that racists and terrorists are fueled by hatred, but in reality, they're motivated by fear. White supremacists are not driven by hatred for those who aren't like them; instead, they fear that those who are different might someday cause them—or their power—to disappear. The difference may seem subtle, but it's critical. Because it transforms the mask wearer from an imagined supernatural monster with extraordinary destructive power into what they really are: a hurt, confused, scared little child misbehaving out of fear.

Screenshot from the movie "The Mask", a classic tale about the dangers of getting attached to a mask.

A great example of the power masks hold in transforming our sense of self can be seen in the movie "The Mask," a childhood favorite of mine. In the movie, Jim Carrey plays Stanley Ipkiss, an awkward, timid, and often ridiculed bank teller who feels he has little choice but to accept what life has given him. That is, until he stumbles upon a magical mask possessed by Loki, the Norse god of trickery. When Stanley puts on this mask, he transforms into a character who is the opposite of who he is without it—charming, charismatic, funny, commanding—and uses his newfound powers to torment people he'd never have had the confidence to confront without it. To understand the mask's power, Stanley seeks the advice of a psychiatrist who'd published a book on masks. The psychiatrist explains that the mask's personality is just a reflection of Stanley's true, repressed desires.

I can relate to this story in many ways, but instead of a lime-green mask that physically changed my appearance, my mask was more subtle. Genetics and the grace of God gifted me with a face and height that were considered desirable in my later teen and young adult years, a stark contrast to the undesirable little boy I felt I was on the inside. This metaphorical mask gave me the power to fulfill my repressed desire to be desired, leading to behaviors that were destructive to myself and those around me. This distorted sense of self was something I could only overcome through the grace of tragedy, which caused my mask to slip, allowing me to see who I truly was again.

A mask doesn't have to exclusively cover a face; masks can also cover the body. I view the uniforms of police and the robes of priests as masks that project an image often misaligned with reality. The police uniform suggests bravery, service, and trustworthiness, yet we've seen repeatedly that this isn't always true for many who wear it. Similarly, a priest's robes imply purity, truth, and care, but often don't reflect the true nature of the person wearing them. Men mask with muscles; women mask with makeup. Both genders mask by posting only the highlights of their lives on social media to create the impression that they're winning at life. The concepts of "fake it till you make it" and "dress for the job you want" both encourage wearing a mask until you hopefully embody what you believe the mask communicates. While this advice might be well-intentioned, it contributes to a culture of inauthenticity, where appearing successful is more valued than actually being successful. Looking like you have money is more valued than having money. Looking like you have a happy family is valued more than actually having one. Hell, somehow looking happy in general is prized more than truly being happy. We've collectively fallen in love with an mirage, an illusion that, while comforting on the surface, has led to a deep sense of unfulfillment in our collective consciousness—one that inevitably manifests as conflict.

Two humans wearing masks and playing roles. Seriously, one of the most powerful photos I've ever seen.

Who's Behind The Mask?

I hope my overall tone throughout this post doesn't make it seem like I believe that masks are inherently a bad thing because I don't think that they are. Sometimes, masks are necessary. The fact is, we live in a dangerous, unpredictable, often cold world, where showing up as your most vulnerable self 100% of the time could cause more harm than good. The truth is, taking off your mask does not guarantee you will be seen. And, to be frank, not everyone deserves to see the treasure of who you truly are. My theory is that many of us wear the masks we do because, at some point in our youth, we showed someone we cared about who we really were, only to be punished, ostracized, or ridiculed for it. So, it's no wonder so many of us are reluctant to reveal our true selves as adults. I've spoken at length about how feeling rejected for being sensitive as a child led me to mask as someone who didn't care about others' feelings as an adult. And I'm willing to bet that if you were to find the root cause of why you wear the masks you do, it would trace back to an experience you had in adolescence as well.

I do feel that it's crucial to connect with people around whom you feel safe being your true self. If you feel the need to wear a mask around family or friends, the reality is that they are family and friends in name only. I've met several people with whom I feel comfortable enough to show most of myself, and I'm grateful for that. But, honestly, I can't say I've ever felt safe enough to show who I am completely to anyone. Even while writing this newsletter, I'm in a way masking as someone who knows what he's talking about when, in reality, I'm just finding my way like everyone else. The truth is, I don't know everything—I have many theories, many ideas, and I've done many experiments that yielded results I feel confident in. But deep down, I'm often as lost, confused, and disempowered as anyone else. This mask of being a healer or a teacher or a guide betrays me because people often assume I don't need to be healed, taught, or led. I won't say my strength is a mask because I am strong, but there are times when I don't want to be strong, and it would be amazing to feel safe enough to be vulnerable and let someone else be strong for me. And though I am open about my sensitivity, in a way, I still mask as invulnerable because it's incredibly hard for me to trust or rely on others, even though I know I need to.

So, my closing message when it comes to masks is not to discard them entirely, but to use discernment when deciding whether to wear them. Understand fully when and why you are wearing a mask, and spend time each day connecting with your truest inner Self so you don't lose your actual identity in the role that your mask has you playing. I see life as a drama, anyway. We're all wearing masks. We're all wearing costumes. We're all Spirit cosplaying as human beings in the grand play of life. As long as you know yourself and stay consciously connected to the Spirit within, it can be enjoyable to wear a mask, play a role, and experience all the positive and negative emotions that come with the illusion of separation.

Growth Challenge: Taking Off The Mask

Objective: To identify the masks you wear in different areas of your life, understand why you wear them, and take steps to embrace your authentic self.

Step 1: Identify Your Masks

  • Find a quiet place to reflect. List the different roles you play in your life (e.g., employee, friend, partner, parent). Next to each role, write down the qualities you consciously or unconsciously project to others in these roles.
  • For each role, ask yourself what you're trying to achieve by wearing the mask. Are you seeking approval, avoiding rejection, or protecting yourself from criticism? Write these motivations down.

Step 2: Discover Your True Self

  • Reflect on moments when you felt completely yourself. What were you doing, and who were you with? Describe your true feelings and behaviors during those times.
  • Identify at least one mask you wear regularly that doesn't align with your true self. What parts of you are hidden by this mask? Write down these hidden aspects.

Step 3: Take Off the Mask

  • Choose one context (e.g., work, family, or social) where you often wear a mask. Commit to being more authentic in that context today. You could share a personal story, express a genuine feeling, or stop pretending to be someone you're not.
  • After your day of unmasking, reflect on how it felt. Did it bring relief, fear, or a mix of both? Write down any insights or surprises.

Step 4: Plan for Continued Growth

  • Consider ways to continue unmasking in your life. Identify relationships or situations where you can be more authentic. Set small goals for yourself to reveal more of your true self over time.
  • As you progress, keep a journal to track your growth and document your experiences. Use it to remind yourself of your progress whenever you feel tempted to put on a mask again.

What's Going On With Me? + Fun Fact About Me

I feel good. I feel at peace. I've been forced to let go of the need to know and am embracing just letting life unfold as it does. I'd been resisting the unknown regarding a particular situation in my life for a while now but I feel like the Universe has finally beaten me into submission. I surrender. I accept that I don't know how everything is going to unfold and that it's quite possible that I'll never know. It has been a true test of my faith but honestly, reality is what it is whether we choose to believe it or not. And fighting what is apparent will ultimately do nothing but tire us out and force us to surrender eventually, anyway.

Shot of the river I took on my ride this past weekend.

I biked down to the river on Saturday and was reminded of the quote "A man never steps in the same river twice", and that reminded me of the importance of not getting too attached to any one part of life. And that just because something was of the utmost importance to me in the past, that doesn't mean I need to hang on to it, because I'm not the same person I was when I first grabbed on to it, and that by continuing to hold onto it, though the river of life it trying to pull me away, I'm delaying my own growth and progress. It is hard to let go but I trust I will be carried where I need to be and that what is for me will be waiting for me when I get there.

Fun Fact About Me

Let's talk music. Music has always been a very prominent part of my life. I'm going to attempt to list some of my favorite songs but take it with a grain of salt because I have so many favorite songs and honestly, what I'd call my favorite would change from day to day lol

Here they are by genre and I've linked each song to Youtube if you want to listen yourself:


Pachabel's Canon in D: This is the first favorite song I remember having and I heard it for the first time in music class at school in first or second grade. I was totally enchanted by it then and still am and am currently working on learning the entire thing on guitar.

Cello Sonata in G minor, Op. 19 - Sergei Rachmaninov: I first heard this beautiful piece while attending a concert to get a cultural enrichment credit during my first year of college. I honestly didn't want to go and didn't know what to expect but was so moved by the performance of this piece from start to finish and still listen to it often. It is the sole reason I am inspired to learn the cello someday.


Weak - SWV: The first time I heard this song, it stopped me in my tracks. To say that I was enchanted would be an understatement. It literally transported me to a different place and made me feel things that I didn't understand as a child. It's still probably my favorite RnB song of all time.

One in a Million - Aaliyah: One of the few songs I consider a literal masterpiece. From the production, to the melody, to the lyrics and vocal performance - this song is just without flaws.

The Party and The After Party - The Weeknd: there's something that just so magical about this song to me. I discovered it back in college back when I was super into women with tattoos and high heels so I'm sure that has something to do with it, lol. But even being far removed from that time, it's still special to me. I've always resonated with the Weeknd's darker interpretation of love and other drugs.

Human Nature - Michael Jackson: another masterpiece. One of those songs that seems like it was channelled from another realm.


I have a lottttt of favorite rap songs. I've probably forgotten more favorites than I remember so instead of trying and failing to list definitive favorites, here are two of the most impactful songs by my favorite rapper, The Notorious B.I.G:

Mo Money Mo Problems - literally the song that made me fall in love with hip-hop. I wasn't really allowed to listen to rap as a child so before I heard this song, I mostly listened to what my mom listened to: oldies and 90's Rnb. Hearing this song quickly made rap my favorite, though.

Suicidal Thoughts - I was listening to Biggie heavily in high school while processing all my teenage angst and also trying to understand this darkness I had within me that I didn't feel free to explore or express in my environment. This song, especially the way it starts and ends, struck a chord deep within me and made me feel not so alone in my darkness.


Can You Discover? - Discovery : along with the song it covers, are two of the most beautifully written songs I've ever heard. I stumbled across Discovery while Youtube sidebar crawling for new music in college. Their debut album "Can You Discover?" is one of my all time faves and worth listening to if you like electronic music.

The Belldog - Eno Moebius Roedelius: This song is just pure magic to me. I was randomly suggested it by Spotify during quarantine and I fell in love instantly with the eclectic electronic production and sparse, moody lyrics. It features one of my favorite electronic music producers, Brian Eno.

Walking The Cow - Daniel Johnston: A hauntingly spiritual song by a troubled soul who, at least in my opinion, had discovered the meaning of life & did his best to put it in a song. It says so much while saying so little and it moves me to tears just about every time I hear it to the point that I have to skip it when I don't feel like getting emotional, lol


Knocked Up - Kings of Leon: this is probably my favorite romantic love song of all time. It gives me Bonnie and Clyde vibes — 'us' against the world and 'us' being enough. Choosing each other despite our flaws and regardless of what others might think. Really speaks to both the rebel and the lover in me.

Float On - Modest Mouse: this song got me through so many hard times, especially during college. The message is simple but powerful: life goes on and it often turns out better than you think it will.


All of these songs are by the same artist, Iron and Wine, who I discovered on a road trip with my manager at the time. The song I heard that day was "Half Moon" which was my favorite of his for the longest but since exploring his discography, I've fallen in love with so many more including those below. He's such a great song writer and I feel like he captures the magic of rural southern life in a way that I really haven't heard before or since.

This Must Be Place: feels like home. It's a cover of this song of the same name by The Talking Heads which is great too but I prefer Iron and Wine's version much more. This is such a spiritual song to me and I feel like it's really about a spiritual awakening and the writer discovering that home is within himself.

Grace for Saints and Ramblers: feels so good but like a stolen good — like an easy Sunday morning playing hooky from church.

Innocent Bones: I love the lyrics of this song. So witty and clever and playful but still poignant.

This music section was SO hard to write because as I started listing favorites, others started coming to mind. I realize that I used "magic" to describe many of the songs but that's because music is magic to me. I could honestly go on and on and am probably leaving out too many to count but for the sake of time, and my sanity, I'll stop here. I'd love to hear what some of your favorite songs are in the comments or any other thoughts, questions, or ideas this week's newsletter sparked in you. I hope the coming week provides you with safe opportunities to show up without your mask on.

With love,

Micheal Sinclair 💜