Are You Wearing a Mask that Dims Your Light?

A guest post by Gail Brenner of A Flourishing Life.

“Ordinary riches can be stolen, real riches cannot. In your soul are infinitely precious things that cannot be taken from you.”
~Oscar Wilde

What is the inner light? We know it when we see it in others – a genuine sense of happiness and joy, enthusiasm that emanates, confidence in one’s unique expression. We feel drawn to people who naturally glow because they reflect the potential for our own inner light to shine.

And we all have that inner light. Within each of us is the capacity to be fully alive, to be infinitely creative, to radiate openness, availability, and love, to look forward with great interest to whatever the next moment brings. We can know ourselves as this light, but sometimes we get in our own way.

We unknowingly enact strategies and defenses that leave us hanging back in the shadows rather than allowing our gifts to shine. We lose our way and forget who we are.

Is it time to come out of hiding? Are you ripe for liberating your luminous, true, unobstructed self?

We dim our lights by taking on identities that mask our full potential. See if any of these sound familiar, and experiment with letting them be. Stop diminishing yourself. Pretend you are who you really are, and watch the masks fall away.

People Pleasing

Some of us betray ourselves by the need to seek approval from others. We don’t feel worthy of love on our own merits, so we morph ourselves – our precious lives – to conform to others’ expectations instead. We find ourselves in jobs and relationships that are a clear mismatch out of our need to be accepted. We abandon our happiness to keep the peace.

Do you want your light to shine? Stand in your own truth. Fess up to what you want, and risk the disapproval of those around you. Keep it simple, and stay close to what fires you up. You may not please everyone, but you can’t imagine how the possibilities for your life will open up once you decide to align yourself with the truth.

Victim Mentality

If we blame others for our problems, we are denying ourselves the clarity and groundedness that are rightfully ours. While we are stuck in a grudge or waiting for others to change, we passively let the moments of our lives tick away. “Poor me” just doesn’t cut it if we want to shine.

Instead of torturing yourself with endless stories of what should or shouldn’t have happened, use your most precious resource, your attention, to explore those places inside yourself that you have been avoiding. Be supremely kind as you open to painful feelings. Make the decision to take responsibility for your well being. Do this work no matter what it takes, and you will be surprised at how much positive energy is revealed as the mask of victimhood falls away.


Maybe you have convinced yourself that you are not good enough. Whatever form self-judgment takes, it keeps us boxed in and limited. Every time our inner light tries to glow, our minds react like a sledgehammer, with harsh thoughts that inhibit us from moving forward. How can we possibly express ourselves fully when we are shot down every step of the way by our own minds?

The inner critic is a jumble of thoughts that are propelled by fear. Learn to identify the fear, then look beneath it to discover your natural resilience, every time. Find the courage to let your whole self shine.


Some of us live in a state of lack. We think we need what we don’t have – a relationship, a quality, a life circumstance – and we spend our time looking outward for fulfillment. This is an “if only” life, and it ignores the treasures that are already here.

Take an honest look at this very moment. If you stop buying into stories that run in your mind, is there anything missing? The universe is so abundant, giving us exactly what we need. When we realize the peace that comes from wanting what we are given, we surrender our ideas of lack, making space for our natural selves to shine.

When we recognize how we hold ourselves back, we have stepped onto the path that takes us back to ourselves. No matter how you feel in this moment, your inner light is shining. Pull away the veils, and let your whole self light up the world.

What holds you back? What has happened in your life when you let your light shine? I’d love to hear…

Gail Brenner is a psychologist with special expertise in untangling self-defeating habits and guiding people to live conscious lives of intelligence, fulfillment, and joy. She delights in offering inspiring articles and guided audio meditations at her blog, A Flourishing Life.

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  1. Annie Stith (@Gr8fulAnnie) says:

    Hey, Gail!

    I found as I was reading the descriptions I was saying, “yeah, yeah… I know how *that* one works…,” and then I was at the end of them. So, I’m familiar with them all. I think I’ve used them alternately, or even stacked them up in layers when I felt particularly vulnerable.

    The *good* news is that I don’t use them nearly as often as I used to. When I do, it’s more out of habit than out of a real need to protect or hide Who I Really Am. There are parts of me unknown to others, but now that’s a matter of boundaries rather than fear.

    It feels good to read a post like this and see the change after years of therapy and hard work. Makes it worth it.



  2. It’s wonderful to hear your report, Annie!

    We start where we are – maybe with layers of conditioning – then gradually work our way through them so we are free. It usually takes a while for habits to unwind, but they do when they lose the fuel that keeps them going. Not hiding Who You Really Are? Sounds good to me!
    .-= Gail Brenner (AFlourishingLife)´s last blog ..Guest Post on Insanely Serene =-.

  3. Ginnie says:

    Wow. Talk about timely. I read every single one of those and found myself nodding upon recognising my own behaviours.

    Like the previous poster, I have had less and less of these times, but sometimes some small thing will trigger a relapse into old ways of thinking, and when it does, it gets ugly, and turns into a vicious cycle of feeling yuck leading to thinking in all the ways you mentioned leading to more feeling yuck. Mother Culture does not help – every day we are bombarded with ‘you are not enough/your life could be improved/you could be better’ messages that are aiming to make us buy stuff but have the effect of helping us feel bad. But when it all boils down, we are NOT our thoughts. Thoughts are just thoughts, nothing more, nothing less. Thanks for the gentle nudge and reminder today…I really needed it.

    When I am at my best, I have an overflowing abundance of energy and enthusiasm to help others and actually be the change I want to see in the world. Every cell in my body smiles and feels good. It feels fabulous, and my outward creative energy is exponentially increased. When I slip back into the ways of thinking you mentioned above, I feel small, squashed, angry and like a black hole in the universe sucking energy inwards. No fun for me, and no fun for anyone around me. The only thing that is changed? Whether I identify with my thoughts, or simply recognise them as thoughts that will come and go like everything else.

    Thank you again. 🙂

    • @Ginnie, So much clarity in your comment, Ginnie!

      Against the background of the unconditioned, natural self that you know well, the knots of conditioning stand out like a neon light. We become more sensitive so we see the conditioning at more and more subtle levels. This is a gift. Each time the habits of thinking appear, we have another opportunity to untie them – and an opportunity to know freedom more deeply.

      As you say, the key is to not identify with thoughts. Sometimes this is easier said than done. Just as thoughts are just thoughts, feelings are just feelings. When we can see our experience directly without the story, all that’s left is the shining self.
      .-= Gail Brenner (AFlourishingLife)´s last blog ..Guest Post on Insanely Serene =-.

  4. […] ♥ Goodlife Zen is quickly becoming one of my favorites. I like this post: Are You Wearing a Mask That Dims Your Light? […]

  5. Paula R. says:

    Great article! I needed to read this, and I too nodded as I read each description. Thank you for opening my eyes. I need to print this and keep it as a reminder for myself. Thanks again. Have a wonderful rest of the day.

    Peace and love,
    Paula R.

  6. I’ve been wearing a mask that dimmed my lights. Now, I am practicing Ho’oponopono and life feels great. I had been using 10 Steps to Radical Forgiveness that I share on my blog and I still do, but Ho’oponopono is simple. “I love you. Please forgive me. I am sorry. Thank you.” Yes!

    It puts me back in total responsibility for my life. When someone hurts me, I take responsibility for creating that situation. I take responsibility for hurting them by creating them in such a negative manner. So inside I tell them that I love them. I ask for their forgiveness. I apologize and I thank them for the opportunity for me to get right within myself. I even do this work with myself. I apologize to me for being needy or criticizing myself or being victim or people pleasing. Yes! This is saying yes to life! Yes!
    .-= Gerlaine Talk´s last blog ..I feel pretty! =-.

    • guest says:

      @Gerlaine Talk, Thanks so much for mentioning this practice, Gerlaine. I am familiar with it, and it sounds like it has transformed your life in beautiful ways.

      The four statements are so heartfelt. They stop the mind and the stories in their tracks. We can’t stay triggered when we say, “I love you. Please forgive me. I am sorry. Thank you.” And as our triggers dissolve, our inner light has the space to shine.

  7. Graile says:

    Is the “inner light” not just madness shining through ?

    • @Graile, I very much appreciate your question, Graile. I can only speak from my own experience, and for me, making space for the inner light is the end of madness and the beginning of sanity. When I am caught in a story of blame or I am obsessively planning to try to control my fears or I do things I don’t want to do because I am afraid of losing someone’s approval – this, to me, is madness, suffering, and misery.

      I have become so familiar with these patterns, that when I see them arising, I can choose not to touch them. As I have stopped focusing on these whirlwinds of conditioning over the years, there is peace, unshakable happiness, lightness, creativity, and joy. Conflict, agitation, and discomfort have fallen away. I feel way more sane.

      I am very interested in knowing more about your sense that the inner light is madness shining through. I would love to understand where your question is coming from in you. If you feel like it, could you say more specifically what you mean?

      Sending love,
      .-= Gail Brenner (AFlourishingLife)´s last blog ..Guest Post on Insanely Serene =-.

  8. Graile says:


    I suppose my question comes from more than a few angles…
    One would be more from a pseudo-clinical point-of-view and the ‘to be infinitely creative’ part of your post. It’s been often stated that geniuses are often more than slightly unbalanced, and that there is but a fine line between creative geniousness and madness. (and whilst I have no off-the-cuff medical facts, having a partner that has worked in mental institutions before, it has been mentioned that some of them do have a strange gleam in the eye)

    Another angle would probably be more an empathic subjective feeling (or view), having been friends with one or two people that I (so subjective pov) would classify as having an inner light shining, and at least one of them had this obscure habit of literally howling at the full moon. And from time-to-time it was asif they almost had this intangible aura around them you could feel… (maybe it’s just my luck with the sort of people I meet ? ;P )

    And a last thought would be…about good-and-evil (and assuming such concepts exist). When you look at some of the more notorious great leaders in the world, would you say that they had a great light shining forth ? And would the “evil” be connected to this light, or would the light be totally subjective to the personality of the person ?

    (and a more way-out thought…if you touch on points such as a collective sub consciousness etc, what would that mean for an inner light ? And would a shared light be possible.)

    You asked 😉

    • @Graile, I’ve heard and read studies also about madness and creativity. It is true that when we stop living in our conditioning and we are guided completely from within, anything can happen – even howling at the moon. It emerges from the natural well of love and life that we are – from being, not doing. It might look mad, which is a label based on what our culture says is normal or not, but comes from a pure, unconditioned place. This is the light.

      When I speak about one’s inner light, I am referring to the natural flow that is ever-present, regardless of one’s conditioning. From this place, we realize the truth of non-separation. All is one – no separation, no division. Evil thrives on separation – there is a me and a you and beliefs about both. When everything is seen as you (me, I, one) and all beliefs are seen as false, evil is virtually impossible. Why? The heart bursts open at the magnificence of creation.

      May your heart burst open in infinite joy, Graile…
      .-= Gail Brenner (AFlourishingLife)´s last blog ..Guest Post on Insanely Serene =-.

  9. Nicole says:


    I appreciate you posting this article 🙂

    I recently let go of a long, emotionally consuming relationship that was rooted in love, but became convoluted as time progressed. I recently learned I needed to set aside this relationship for the moment and continue living my life, not allowing my personal need for attention overwhelm my sense of self. This article made me consider aspects of the relationship that were really holding me back, and what was genuine.

    While I am still seeking happiness and my sense of self, articles like this make it easier to self reflect and draw forth my real self.

    Thank you again


    • @Nicole, It sounds like you are making the most of the ending of this relationship – using it to learn where you get stuck. Good for you!

      You realized you didn’t want to allow your personal need for attention to overwhelm your sense of self. This is so great! When we let our needs take charge, we are held hostage to them. Better to get to know how they work and untangle them so you can go on and live your natural life.

      Sounds like you are thriving in your journey, Nicole.
      .-= Gail Brenner (AFlourishingLife)´s last blog ..The No-Fail Secret to Reclaiming A Happy Life =-.

  10. Claire says:

    Dear Gail,

    I would specifically like to comment on your question: ‘What has happened in your life when you let your light shine?’
    I’ve had it happen more than once that family members or close friends reacted negatively to my ‘shining moments’. I spent a lot of time analyzing their negative reactions and the devastating consequences they had on me, but still not fully understand their motives. Mostly, I think, it’s envy – because they themselves did not feel ‘shiny’ at that moment, or jealousy – because the joy they saw was independent of them, maybe it felt to them like they were loosing their influence (and they were, in a way).
    It took me 3 decades to free myself from people that reacted negatively on a regular basis. It is as sad as it is interesting how few close relationships that process left me with. But I am now a much happier person. I still catch myself falling back into one of the ‘dimming patterns’, though, when I meet a new person who reacts in that kind of negative way.
    Thanks for your thought-provoking post and best regards

    • @Claire, And thank you, Claire, for making this very important point. Often, people who know us well want us to stay the same. If we change, it rocks their boat, it threatens them in some way. People who march to their inner drummer sometimes have a tough go of it. This becomes more of an opportunity to stay with what we know to be true about ourselves and keep putting one foot in front of the other.

      You are very persistent, and this has served you well. I am so happy for you that you have the clarity about yourself that keeps you aligned to your shining life.
      .-= Gail Brenner (AFlourishingLife)´s last blog ..The No-Fail Secret to Reclaiming A Happy Life =-.

  11. Hi Gail,

    Thanks for this lovely post! The title particularly caught my attention because I, too, recently wrote a post titled “What’s The Mask You’re Wearing?” I wrote it because I saw this theme continue to show up with my coaching clients. We are all these brilliant, wonderful, magnificent human beings who have gorgeous lights to shine…yet we dim those lights and snuff them out with old beliefs, limiting self-talk, and fears.

    To answer your question, what has held me back in the past is the “should’s” – for example: “What’s the proper way to do this?” or “What will they think if I do it this way?” or “What is deemed as acceptable here?” Once I remove those “should’s” (the mask), I’m able to tap into my own light, my own strength, and my own power. And it feels GOOD! In my post about masks, I mentioned that when you’re not fully being “you,” you shortchange the world. And what a beautiful world this would be if we all allowed ourselves to take off the mask and simply be who we are.

    Appreciate your wisdom here, Gail. I look forward to more good stuff from you and will surely pass this along to my clients. 🙂
    .-= Michelle @ Following Your Joy´s last blog ..Opening Yourself Up To Receiving =-.

    • @Michelle @ Following Your Joy, Thanks so much for your comment, Michelle. I love the point you make in your post that wearing masks takes energy. It is so fluid to be our natural selves, and there is so much strategizing and vigilance needed to keep the mask on.

      I hear your point about “should’s.” “I should do something, but I don’t want to.” It’s an inner conflict that drains us and keeps us stuck and unhappy. It takes courage to put the masks down, but the benefits are worth it, as I’m sure you can attest to.

      Lovely to meet you and to hear about the good work you are doing.
      .-= Gail Brenner (AFlourishingLife)´s last blog ..The No-Fail Secret to Reclaiming A Happy Life =-.

  12. Claire Festel says:

    Hi Gail,
    This post touched me deeply and I thank you. I’ve just completed very busy, exciting travels and have allowed myself to get caught in currents. I feel like I’m circling in a backwash right now, instead of swimming purposefully. Your post cut through. It’s time to pause, breathe, float, gather strength and take up my own stroke.

  13. Sherri Frost says:

    I like the metaphor of a mask hiding our inner light. We try to hide things from others and end up hiding them from ourselves as well.

  14. […] Are You Wearing a Mask that Dims Your Light? dal sito Goodlife Zen di Mary Jaksch. […]

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