(Un)Masking Our Authentic Selves

Hello and Happy Halloween!

Whether you engage with today’s holiday or not, there is a good chance that you (and the people surrounding you) are walking around with a mask on at least once a day. For the most part, we wear them to protect us and are often not even aware that they are there. As leaders, a big challenge is to show up every day as our authentic selves, as who we are despite what people are asking of us, what decisions we need to make, or what situation we find ourselves in.

Masks (Francesco Ungaro)

Here are a couple of excerpts on masks to think over:

“The word persona is the Greek term for “stage mask.” …masks and armor are perfect metaphors for how we protect ourselves from the discomfort of vulnerability [from being hurt, diminished, disappointed, or emotionally exposed]. Masks make us feel safer even when they become suffocating. Armor makes us feel stronger even when we grow weary from dragging the extra weight around.” – Brené Brown

“The social mask forms the moment we’re born and we hear our first words. We learn to please, meet expectations, and avoid sharing our feelings, which can turn into a lifelong struggle to be good enough, know enough, and have enough.

We long to be seen and heard for who we are unconditionally, but we find ourselves on the path of conditional love, seeking the approval and appreciation from others that we eventually discover must come from within.” – Carolyn Hildago

Here are some questions to consider:

  • Are you aware of people or situations where you can be yourself? How does that make you feel, what do you gain from this kind of freedom? Why do you think you are able to be authentic under these conditions?
  • What is going on when you feel like you need to hide or show up with your mask on? Why are you wearing it? What would happen if you took the mask off in that moment?
  • Are there situations where you show up as you want to be seen, as opposed to showing up as the real, vulnerable you? Can you think of a time when you wore that mask and it didn’t serve or protect you? How do you imagine things would have been different if you showed up as your authentic self?
  • Can you identify when others have their mask on around you? Are you able to talk about it with them? What responsibility do we have to hold up a mirror to one another if we sense there is a mask between us?
  • What mask of yours is smothering you right now or that you feel trapped by? What armor is really heavy? What is driving your need to keep them close?
  • How would your awareness of masks and authenticity make you a better leader? A better friend or family member?

The big question:

  • What impact (on your life and others) could it have to increase your ability to be your authentic self?


As always, I love to hear your feedback on these ideas and these emails in general.

Happy Halloween everyone! -Becky

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