Masking is a double edged sword.
I have always masked, masking is the ability to appear more competent in a certain area of your life than you are. I do not intentionally mask, I have only recently been identified autistic and ADD and prior to this I thought I just ‘should’ be able to excel in all areas of my life. This thinking meant I pushed myself to appear ‘perfect’. Putting myself under this sort of pressure meant I continuously felt like an impostor and that someone could discover the ‘truth’ at any minute.
One example of this is when a colleague commented on how tidy and organised my desk was at the beginning of term. The truth is I have to organise every detail so that I can function, my default state is untidy. I have a very busy brain so if I have my keys in my hand and my attention moves to something else, if I put my keys down, I will completely forget where I have put them. It means my initially tidy desk and classroom will descend into disarray and I have to work harder to keep up this ‘act’ of being tidy by continuously re-organising and re-tidying. If I do not do this I cannot locate resources for my lessons and it takes me even longer to organise myself each day.
Another area where this is problematic is being assessed. As a teacher, I am continuously assessed for my competencies by being observed. In these scenarios my fear of being ‘discovered’ for masking my abilities causes me such anxiety I freeze and can hardly function as a teacher. I usually prepare for longer and put more effort into my plans than other teachers and yet my observed lessons are always terrible – the school then has to use my record as an outstanding teacher to prove my ability.
Masking in these areas alongside negotiating the minefield that is ‘office politics’ leaves me feeling incredibly fatigued on a daily basis. I have burned out in more jobs than I care to mention.
Where I excel is when I am actually teaching… it is nurturing children, it is making the implicit explicit and it is unpicking the inner cognitive process to help each child find a way of learning that works for them.
I love teaching!
When I am in the classroom teaching the children I do not need to mask I know I am good, I know it when the children respond to me, I know it when they have a light-bulb moment, I know it when they are having fun in my classroom and still learning.
This means, at work, as long as I am in the classroom teaching then I am not masking – but in almost every other scenario I am. Keeping up this pretence of being ‘perfect’ and dealing with life in the way others do is beyond tiring.