Updated: Apr 14
Recently I was in Nashville attending a one day business coaching workshop and a weekend camp focusing on relationships.
I went in deciding to make some new connections with other life coaches, which went amazingly well and to make some new friendships with some of my fellow camp attendee's.
While standing in line to get into the conference room on day two I was hanging out talking to another life coach whom I went through advanced certification with the year prior. I told her that I wanted to help men and women remove the masks that they hide behind in order to protect themselves from other peoples opinions, and how those masks keep them from being connected to themselves and others. To discover their own voice in the world and to proudly speak their truth. She told me that it sounded like a good concept but wanted some time to consider if she had ever worn a mask.
After lunch she ran back to our table and told me she had found it, the mask that she wears all the time that gets in her way of feeling more connected to others. The mask of "I'm strong and don't need anyone else's help".
She told me that she had been believing that by wearing this mask she could protect herself from the world and use it to prove to herself that she didn't need anyone else. She told me that she noticed that this mask seemed helpful but that in reality it really wasn't allowing anyone to see all of her. She wasn't able to ask for help. She wasn't letting other people in.
Why I choose to work with others to remove the mask. (I am a mask wearer too).
I grew up in an alcoholic home with parents that wore masks. I believe that they received their masks from their parents and society as I did from mine. We live in a world that tells us that it is better to wear a mask and hide our imperfections, our addictions and our mental health issues than to show what is really going on underneath.
As a child I needed my mask to hide. As an adult hiding became painful and suffocating.
For many years I wore masks. I wore the mask of bravery and challenged my parents, peers and myself. This mask said, "I don't need anyone else, I'll do it on my own." Yet I was scared and insecure and developed an eating disorder that took 40 years to finally break.
The mask of the perfect Christian wife and mother who on the outside smiled and served the Lord but on the inside suffered severely from depression and never believed that she was truly saved, good enough, redeemable or loved.
The mask of the faithful friend who showed up for you every time you needed anything but never told you how much she felt alone and isolated and hurting, wishing you'd be the one to show up for her too.
The mask of the healthy woman who knew all the latest diet fads and fun bootcamp classes, encouraging others to "eat right and get healthy", and yet I was a closet binge eater who ate in secrecy and shame and had so much body hate that I could not look at myself in the mirror.
The mask of the wife who smiled and told her husband that everything was just fine when inside she felt alone and wanted to scream because she wanted a better relationship but didn't know how to ask for it because.....she was that strong, brave, do it all on her own girl.
When I started to understand that I was wearing masks to hide myself and began to remove them, there was no instant freedom, no chains breaking and me walking into the light feeling any less of a fraud than I had while wearing the masks. It was actually pretty painful at first. These masks played a vital role in protecting me from the outside world. Even when I wanted to feel connection and love, I was so afraid that if I started to be honest with myself and others that the rejection would be so unbearable, that it took a lot of practice and courage to remove the mask and not want to run it put it right back on again.
It was messy at first. My voice had been hidden and was rusty. When I started to be honest with others about how much I was pretending to be o.k. their response was the typical, "why didn't you just tell me?" which made me feel more ashamed. I was taught when I was young that I should be seen and not heard. But really it was I should be seen as perfect, and not heard. And from those messages I learned to put on a mask because the real version of myself was something to be ashamed of and hidden away.
As an adult I have learned that it is not only o.k. but it is so important to be the version of myself that God has designed. He created me to be loud and fierce and also shy and quiet. He created me without a mask. I get to be exactly who I was made to be. I am flawed. I am messy. I am a klutz (just ask the client whom I met with for coffee last week about how I dumped my coffee all over her.). I am also lovely and acceptable. I am just who I was meant to be.
One of the greatest gifts I bring to my clients in our coaching sessions is the permission to practice removing their masks. In coaching I show you how to uncover your masks, shed belief systems that hinder you from being your authentic self and discover your voice. Loud and proud or quiet and timid. Sometimes all of the above. There is a place in this world for everyone to be seen and heard. You get to be safe. You get to have boundaries that support you.
Removing the mask allows you to be discovered. It allows you to truly connect with yourself and others. It brings in healing, compassion and generosity. It is being able to breathe and move and explore who you were always created to be. Uniquely you. Beautiful.
What do you need most right now? What masks have you discovered that you'd like some help removing. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org I'd love to hear from you.