Behind every mask there is a face, and behind every face there is a story….
Travel is such an education. It’s often said that it can be the greatest test of compatibility and should perhaps be a pre-requisite to ‘marriage’! For me, some of the best ‘lessons’ have come from the people I’ve met along my journey and contemplating our behaviour.
I was intrigued to discover the masks around people I thought I knew reasonably well. It was like meeting ‘old’ friends or colleagues for the first time. Between us, either they or I had donned ‘masks’. Behind these masks lay a depth of engagement and interests that were previously foreign to me. The masks ranged from my feeling intimidated and therefore limiting my conversation around topics which were ‘safe’ for me, to my thinking that perhaps the other party was ‘closed’ to me for some reason.
It has been a joy to discover the gems that lay behind the ‘masks’ and it got me thinking about how many people either hide behind certain masks or for myself, what ‘masks’ I wear in different situations and how that could affect my level of engagement.
At work and at home, for example, what presumptions do we make about another’s behaviour, ability or judgment? Are we overshadowing an employee or child by being too directive or too imprecise? How do we come across to those with whom we have little rapport vs. those with whom we easily relate? Do we side with some and antagonize others? And do we really know the people we think we know? Our challenge is to ‘get behind the mask’ and discover who that person really is so we can understand, appreciate and better relate to them.
“There is a face beneath this mask, but it isn’t me.
I’m no more that face than I am the muscles beneath it, or the bones beneath that.”
― Steve Moore
When we compare memories with siblings/ friends/colleagues about a shared experience, we often discover that each remembers things very differently. I may recall that it was a fun event but for the other it was a nightmare experience.
And so it is with masks. Like the majority of us, I wear a number of different ‘masks’ according to my environment and circumstance. If I were to gather together the people I know I’m sure they’d consider me quite a kaleidoscope of ingredients!
“One of the greatest tragedies in life is to lose your own sense of self and accept the version of you that is expected by everyone else.”
At times our masks can be a self-protective camouflage, and at others a façade or curtain that we may raise or let fall according to our degree of dis/comfort or the degree to which we wish to reveal ourselves.
I’m reminded of a behavioural model called ‘The Johari Window’ (from Joseph & Harry) which describes both our public and private selves, and demonstrates:
The parts of me I know and show,
The parts of me I know and choose not to show ….
Notice your masks: both serious and playful; limiting and engaging…then switch them around a little….or dare to remove them altogether!
When we employ a mask we tend to de-personalise ourselves by hiding our vulnerability by changing our behaviour, ‘putting on a brave face’ or conceal a pretend toughness or repress and emotion or a condition where we think that by doing so we can conceal or silence it.
When we do this, just think how many more layers our real self has to pass through – and the effect that can have on those with whom we live, work and play?
“Don’t you, when strangers and friends come to call, straighten the cushions, kick the books under the bed and put away the letter you were writing?
How many of us want any of us to see us as we really are?
Isn’t the mirror hostile enough?”
So this all begs the question:
By discovering and realizing your masks your relationship dynamics and behaviour change. This enables you to look at people, things and situations with ‘fresh eyes’ – and recognize opportunities and solutions that you may previously have been blind to…Buy some ‘rose-coloured spectacles’ and have fun practicing!
Brene Brown studies exactly this, and has a wonderful TED Talk about the power of vulnerability:
It’s well worth a look as she’s has amounted many years of scientific research into the human connection.
SO, when you wonder:
“Who am I really?” or feel that you’ve lost your ‘Mojo’ in the busyness and demands of ‘Life’ engage with a coach!
“You’ll never know who you are unless you shed who you pretend to be.”
We all need a ‘Go To’ person that can help us realise our potential.
In my experience, I find it enables me to clarify my situation and help facilitate a solution that provides me credence to who I am and honours that unique individual that is me!
It’d be great to talk with you and help you kick-start your journey.
Luft,J. and Ingham, H. (1955). The Johari Window: a graphic model for interpersonal relations, University of California
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