There has been much media coverage during the pandemic about the use of masks. The reality is that various facial masks have been worn for eons for all sorts of reasons (e.g. the Italian Carnevale di Venezia masks worn since the twelfth century) and people have regularly worn real and imaginary masks that are not in any way related to protecting them from viruses.
Miraca Gross, Emeritus Professor of Gifted Education and founder of the Gifted Education Research, Resource and Information Centre (GERRIC) at UNSW, wrote an article titled, "The 'Me' Behind the Mask" about identity formation in intellectually gifted youth. In this article, Gross suggested that many gifted students learn to hide their intellectual abilities behind a 'mask' they regard as more socially acceptable. She indicated that some gifted young people, after masking their abilities for an extended period of time, become afraid to show their true abilities for fear that they may not be socially accepted by others.
In our supposedly egalitarian society, there has been, in recent times, an increasing emphasis upon acceptance of diversity. Many institutions, corporate organisations and government agencies have developed policies to emphasise the need to actively support those who represent diverse backgrounds, experiences and choices. These groups place importance upon the development of practical programs and initiatives designed to increase the level of diversity, provide access and opportunities for individuals from a variety of ethnic, cultural, geographic, disability and gender orientation populations; however many groups still regard gifted individuals as somehow advantaged and believe they should not be included in these initiatives.
Despite the increasing need for talent to be developed to meet current societal needs and address significant challenges, together with the findings of two bi-partisan Federal Government Senate Enquiries that identified gifted students as a significantly disadvantaged population, there remains a perceived need for many gifted students to adopt a mask to hide their abilities, in order to feel accepted by others. It is only when gifted students feel their abilities are accepted in schools and by their society that they do not feel that there is a need to camouflage who they are.
Gross refers to identity formation as a critical aspect of maturation. The integration of different aspects of self is likewise important; however this is difficult for gifted students to achieve if there are aspects of themselves that are not accepted by others. When abilities are openly recognised and true acceptance is regularly demonstrated, gifted youth do not feel it necessary to wear a mask to hide abilities. Positive identity formation depends on acceptance; which is essential for well-being.
© Michele Juratowitch