JWU Student Blogs

What Mask Are You Wearing?

What if you were told you could not be the person you are, and you had to act and portray your life the way everyone else wanted you to? JWU Providence Counseling Psychology student Jake S. Thongsythavong writes about his very personal experience & shares advice.

How would you feel if you had to pretend to be someone you are not?

Jake posed this question to current JWU Providence students and captured their responses. Take a look:

Sophomore, Brittany Northrup: “I would not feel authentic, I would not be me, but I would also say screw society because if I love myself, that is all that matters.

Junior, Randy Dominguez: “Trapped would be an understatement. Being forced to do that would cancel out any source of joy I now have in my life every day.

Society loves to deem what is appropriate, what is right, and how things should be done and perceived. However, I also know that whenever there has been a major change in the history of our world, people didn’t always follow those cultural norms. People fought, people bled, people died so that what they believed in could be accepted and so they could live the lives that they wanted to.

I’m forced to be someone that I’m not? Why!? I’m my own person – I love what I love, and I am … me. Right. Everyone likes to pretend to make those around them that they love happy. They like to pretend because they believe that they will be accepted for the things that they are actually not!

Pretending is it’s terrible.

Pretending is going home at the end of every day and being ashamed of the person you truly are. You eventually start believing in the happiness of the person that’s not good enough for you to actually show.

You lock away your heart.

 Jake wants to peel off the mask and reveal the true self.

A JWU student poses the following question:

“I never came out to my family because I'm afraid of how they would react. How did you tell your family and what is some advice you would give someone who is still hiding their true self from their family?” K.F 

I am truly blessed to have the family that I have. A piece of my heart used to be locked away for so long. I used to cry some nights because I felt this uneasy burden; I didn’t feel right, and I didn’t feel loved. You see, that’s where pretending really messes you up. Am I truly loved? Or do the people around me love me for the person that I am pretending to be? I told my family separately. My father and my mother divorced at a very young age, and I still have yet to tell my father formally. However, my older brother and my mother are the only two people in my life that matter.

I remember it clearly. One day my mother was driving, and for some reason I was just so overwhelmed and tired of pretending – I randomly just burst out into tears. My mother is the sweetest person I know, and all I remember was that she continued to drive and said, “When you calm down a little bit, talk to me. What’s wrong sweetie?” Even then it took me a long time to speak – but I started. The first thing I told her was, “I’m scared to lose you Mom. You mean so much to me, and I love you.” Right after that line, I began to think of every single story I’ve read or heard where parents, without a second thought, disowned their own children because of their sexuality.

I started crying again.

My mother stopped the car, and said, “No matter what you tell me, you are my son, and I will always love you.” I knew that, and I’ve known that my whole life. Why was I so scared to tell her – why did I pretend for so long?

There’ll never be the “right” moment in life to come out to your family. I am appreciative of the family I have, and I don’t want to discourage anyone, but not every family will be the same. There’s a time in your life where you must eventually stand up for yourself. Do you risk being scorned by societal views to be who you really are? Or are you going to hide your true self forever? What’s deep down inside you will never change. Who you love will never change. What instincts you were born with will never change. It’s the scariest thing in the world for some people, and I understand that. But you have to also know, that you will NEVER be happy, until you can be who you truly are deep down. Not every family will be accepting, and for some, it may take a long time. But if they love you, and if they don’t let cultural norms come between something as strong and sacred as blood, you will find the most magical feeling in the world.

 You will find strength and that fear will be nothing.  

                                      You're broken down and tired,
                                      Of living life on a merry-go-round,
                                      And you can't find the fighter.
                                      But I see it in you so we gonna walk it out,
                                      And move mountains.
                                      We gonna walk it out,
                                      And move mountains.

                                                          -Rise Up, Andra Day

Jake wants to help you maneuver your way through the complications of being a young adult, follow him for inspiration on Instagram & Facebook.

Do you have a question that you'd like Jake to tackle? Email Jake to be featured in an upcoming advice column.

Topics: Providence