One of the things I see people in pain about is "the mask" they've been wearing all their lives. It's starting to crack and they're beginning to suffer.
Most of us learned at a very early age that the external world (our parents, schools, communities) required us to wear a mask to stay safe and make other people comfortable.
But the mask is oppressive. Some children at a very early age are crushed by it and unable to cope. Or they refuse. Then they suffer symptoms of stress, loneliness, anxiety, "behavior" problems. But most people learn to adapt with the weight well into adulthood.
In truth the mask is made of many amazing human traits. But the main problem is that it's brittle and doesn't allow range. It's not flexible. And we're required to wear it as much as possible. Ideally 100% of the time.
In my family masks were traditionally gendered. Girls and women were to appear visibly happy and compliant. Look strong and competent no matter what. Always be helpful. Never be selfish. Be willing, hard-working, and other-focused. Be unobtrusive, control your emotions, and keep your voice down.
The mask of boys and men was equally restrictive: absolutely no vulnerability. No "soft" emotions. The go-to ones were anger and pride. Be strong. Preferably the strongest. Lead others. Work harder. Have the answers. Don't think about anything except what's right in front of you. Definitely: do not feel or address emotions.
But the day will come when the mask slips. Or falls off altogether under stress or from an unavoidable crisis. Without the mask we're vulnerable and weak. Who can we turn to? Who will accept us when we reject the weight of this mask? Who still loves us? What if we want to take it off forever and live our lives barefaced in the world.