Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The masks we wear

Whenever two people meet, there are really six people present. There is each man as he sees himself, each man as the other person sees him, and each man as he really is. William James
At Choices, the personal development course I coach in and recommend highly as a great catalyst for personal accountability, there is an exercise which focuses on giving people the opportunity to hear other people's perceptions of them. It is a powerful exercise.

So often we think we're projecting an image that we believe keeps us safe. So often, we believe we're hiding -- our insecurities, our fears or anxieties, when, in reality, we're not.

So often, people are able to see through our 'shields' into the heart of our inner fear and turmoil.

For me, one of the most powerful pieces of feedback I ever received was a woman suggesting I was 'Queen of the Masks.'

I was incensed. Outraged.

Never. I don't wear masks. I am transparent. What you see is what you get.

I was kidding myself.

Truth is, there was a time when I was Queen of the Masks. Most of my life, in an effort I believed would keep my 'self' safe, I had worn various masks to hide my feelings, disguise my fears, obscure my anxiety.

Receiving that feedback gave me an opportunity to examine myself -- particularly because my reaction to it was so intense. I knew in its intensity, lay a truth I needed to investigate.

I still fall into the trap of wearing masks. Sometimes, I tell myself, they're necessary to protect me from other people's dubious motives or behaviours.

Mostly, they're a habit I don when I am feeling off balance, exposed or insecure. Familiar with their inner workings as I look at the world through their gauzy haze, I fool myself into believing I am safe. Protected. Secure.

Ahhh, the stories we tell ourselves when we want to believe the stories we tell ourselves,

Another great quote from William James (American pragmatist and psychologist who also happens to have been the brother of novelist, Henry James). "As a rule we disbelieve all the facts and theories for which we have no use."

There was a time when I had convinced myself that masks were my friend.

Reality is, my masks inhibit my growth. They limit my belief in myself and hold me back from being my most magnificent self -- free to be all I'm meant to be when I let go of being who I think others expect, or want, me to be as I become -- me, myself and I -- in love with who I am, exactly the way I am today.

The question is: What mask are you willing to peek out from behind today so that you can face your beauty, perfectly imperfect in all its human being?

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