By Max Hollander
Let’s Talk About Masks
Masks are a major part of the celebration of Purim — but also the way we operate in the world. Depending on the social setting, masks are the things we hide behind to conceal our true selves for fear of rejection. Often, the use of masks in public spaces is out of an insecurity that deep down, we aren’t who people think we are — otherwise known as imposter syndrome.
Impostor syndrome is the internal psychological experience of feeling like a phony in some area of your life, despite any success you have achieved in that area. (VeryWellMind)
Esther can be understood as someone experiencing imposter syndrome when she is called upon to reveal her identity to the king in order to save the Jewish people. Instead of embracing the task and believing in herself, she highlights the king’s apparent lack of affection for her and her inadequacy for the role of savior:
Mordechai is confident God will provide salvation one way or another, but he pushes Esther to consider the reality of her position in the royal palace and to see past her fear of rejection and failure. Contrary to what she may believe about herself, she is perfectly suited for the role she ultimately succeeds in performing.
There is an interesting parallel between Esther’s story of self-doubt and Moses’s. Moses also shows self doubt, constantly refusing to take up the mantle of savior. His experience of imposter syndrome and self-doubt is most striking in his complaint to God about the people. In the Torah, God tells Moses to tell the Jews they will be leaving Egypt:
The Torah tells us explicitly the Jews rejected Moses because of their own exhaustion, but Moses believes it was because he was lacking as an orator.
Both characters are thrust into a royal setting, made vulnerable to outside forces. And both are pushed to reveal their identities and compromise themselves by companions who believe they are capable of great things.
Revealing our true selves to the world can be frightening, but just as Esther and Moses showed, getting over that hurdle and sharing ourselves with the world can be a positive thing — for many reasons. We can see ourselves in the stories of Esther and Moses, as we still struggle with imposter syndrome today. As we each work to believe in ourselves and quiet the internal voices of doubt, we can strive toward reaching our potential, achieve relief and start healing:
This Purim, consider disposing of any masks you’ve been holding onto out of fear and releasing the burdens that come with them. It might not be easy; letting go is a lot easier said than done. But it is important to remember you are not alone and identify who your supporters are. You will have your community to support you, much like Esther had Mordechai and Moses had God.