No matter your stage of life, people everywhere long to be seen.
I write this the morning after Halloween. The one time of the year when we can wear visible, full character masks and pretend we’re someone else, just for a little while.
I handed out candy last night (in COVID-friendly style of course) as princesses and goblins came to my door, sweet she-devils and a headless horseman too.
The children’s bright faces, and glees of appreciation, lit the neighbourhood as their trick-or-treat bags filled up.
My daughters dressed up too – one went as a bottle of ketchup and the other as a sweet angel. Fun to be in character for the night, dressing up and acting like someone different, just for a little while (and heck, when you’re a bottle of ketchup, I’m pretty sure that personality is up for grabs!)
And now it’s November. We go back to our regular lives and the way we usually show up.
Do you usually wear a mask? (Before COVID, I mean) Perhaps not a visible one, but do you sometimes feel you wear a mask to work… to family gatherings… to social functions … where you “act” like you think you’re supposed to act to be the someone people expect you to be?
Recently, I was asked to take out a childhood picture to reconnect with my younger self – the innocent self I was before the world got ahold of me. It was an exercise to access and develop empathy for others, no matter the situation of conflict or stress you may be in, so you could see them as an innocent child, just trying to make their way in the world like everyone else.
I was surprised (and a little taken aback) at how far back I had to go to reconnect with that pure innocence. I decided that I started losing my innocence when I went to school, at about age four, when I more consciously started having to be someone or do something in a certain way to gain the favour of my teachers, parents, and peers.
Whether it was good grades, sitting still at my desk, wearing my uniform in just the right way to school, or saying the right things, I learned from a very young age that I had to try hard to be the person that others wanted around and to be accepted.
That innocent child learned at a very young age, that to be accepted she had to act, look, and be a certain way.
It struck me that as children, we spend our lives learning how others want us to be, and then as we grow up, we strip ourselves of those expectations to find out who we really are.
Some of us never get there.
Some of us go our entire lives wearing whatever mask is called for in that moment, and never uncover who they really are, or reveal their true selves.
How about you?
I am especially struck by this as I watch my teenage girls navigate their way through changing friend groups, more challenging curriculum that comes easily, or not so easily to them, and the big looming question of “what are you going to do with your life?” as high school teachers steer their students towards their greatest aptitude. It’s also a time when teens grapple with disappointments of not making certain sports teams, or not being recognized for a talent they may have thought was worth being celebrated.
What’s something you had to unlearn as you got older, or even unlearn just this year?
What’s a mask you decided you no longer needed to wear that was only worn to pretend to be someone you really aren’t?
On the flip side – and perhaps more exciting – what’s a mask you’ve been longing to try? Even just for a little while?
This week, I leave you with this thought – if you could shed ONE mask in your life, and try on ONE different one for a little while – what would it be?
This is the work I do with people, day in and day out. Connecting with their authentic, true selves to step into truer versions of themselves, spending their time with people who appreciate them, working for employers who are happy to have them there, and serving the world through business or community involvement in a way that reflects their best selves.
What are you here to do, be, or connect with? Correction: What is the most authentic version of yourself here to do, be, or have an impact?
That’s your challenge for this week – to notice a mask that no longer fits – and to imagine wearing a new one that might fit a whole lot better.
To your success, in business, in your career, and in life,