With Halloween lurking just around the corner, you’re probably deciding which spooky bash you’re going to attend and adding last minute touches to your costume.

You and your friends are dressing up as the cast of “The Addams Family,” and you can’t wait to pull off the ultimate goth look. The night is as fun as you had hoped and everyone looked great in their grim garb.

But why is it that even after Halloween is over, some of us can’t seem to take off the costume?

When was the last time you went on a date dressed in a costume? Before you say “never,” think again. Costumes are a piece of our everyday wardrobe. We wear them to work, at home, when we spend time with friends and…yes, even on dates.

This is all metaphorical of course, but why is it we really do seek to be someone other than ourselves when we’re on dates?

Think back to when you were a child. Do you remember dressing up and refusing to change back into normal clothes? A lot of children go through this phase, but some become convinced that they really are the character they are portraying.

As a child, you create stories about yourself (put on a costume) based on early experiences. Maybe your mother didn’t support your ambition to be a ballet dancer so you believed you weren’t worthy of unconditional support. Perhaps you felt one of your siblings was favored so you believed you weren’t deserving of love and admiration.

As you grow up, you inevitably carry these often subconscious but hurtful and restricting stories into adulthood. You don’t take off the costume, and now you believe a false, biased reality about who you really are.

By hanging on to childhood-crafted stories, you create an unrealistic and inaccurate self-image as an adult—remember, costumes disguise who you really are. Hiding behind a costume disguises your true identity, clouding your perceptions of the future with false notions about who you are and what you feel you deserve in a relationship.

The stories you craft as a child are not only a burden to yourself as an adult, but also to your relationships. Costumes create unrealistic dating scenarios because your dates can’t see the real you. You’re not allowing others to see you as the open, loving and generous person that you truly are—because you don’t see it either.

It’s time to stop hiding behind the fake reality you’ve created for yourself. This is what keeps you from having the life and relationships you want and deserve. It’s only once you remove the costume that you can begin to embrace your true identity.