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By Stacey Griffith
October 31, 2016

It’s funny how once a year, we’re given license to dress up as any character we want: change our hair, change our sex, totally change our own persona. We can blame the look on Halloween, yet I would imagine for many, what you choose as your costume is a reflection of some part of you.

But do you ever feel like there is an actual “mask” you hide behind in your every day life? Maybe the makeup you put on, or the clothes you wear. Does it feel like the real you is coming though?

When I first moved to New York City from Los Angeles, I definitely stood out. I had crazy wild blonde curly hair, I dressed as if I stepped out of a Billabong surf catalog and I was pretty much the only gay woman above East 72nd street. I felt really self-conscious and out-of-place. I wore long-sleeved shirts in public to hide my tattoos, and even considered having them removed because I thought I freaked out most of the parents in the building walking their kids to the school bus in the morning.

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But the longer I stayed in New York — loving my new job, meeting friends, making memories — the more comfortable I felt with myself in my new home. People knew who I was and what I was passionate about. They learned that my tattoos all had a meaning. I had to take off the mask (and the long sleeves) to show people who I was. And I realized I didn’t need to hide any part of my self to be welcomed and accepted.

So how can you work on this for yourself? Think about when you’re getting ready for your day. Is there a process you go through that adds unnecessary stress that you can eliminate? Maybe it’s doing something with your hair, or trying to look a certain way that’s up too much time, or maybe you don’t like a certain thing about your smile, or are convinced you need to lose weight. Take a step back and think about why you’re doing those things. Is that straightening iron or that sweater something you’d willingly use? Or are you trying to fit into someone else’s standard?

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Here’s the deal: before you can “fit in” anywhere else, you have to “fit in” to your own body and be comfortable there. You have to love the way you choose to wear your hair (up, down, messy, short, blown out, knotted out), you have to love the way you dress and you have to know when you need to get active. It has to be defined on your own terms, not on what you see someone else doing.

This is the first Halloween that I actually feel like I fit in. Fit in my skin, fit in my life, fit in my existence and fit in my city. If I choose to dress up like my favorite candidate or TV character, it’s not because I want to hide. I hope you can start saying the same about your own masks.

Stacey Griffith is a senior master instructor at SoulCycle and the author of the upcoming book Two Turns From Zero. Stacey’s motivational coaching style combines a passion for dance, athleticism and mind-blowing music—all set to the beat of her voice. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Contact us at editors@time.com.

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