We all wear one or more at some stage of our lives. Some of us die wearing them.
I’m still shedding my masks, one by one, as I walk through life. I don’t think it’s something that will ever stop happening.
You see, our corporate masks are a necessary part of growing into our own skin, of (re)connecting with our true essence and finding out what we’re truly about.
Until then, the suit keeps us safe so we can figure ourselves out.
Our corporate masks are like shields that have us blend in and be moulded like clay to standards that are not our own. Which become the default until we discover what we love in life, what’s important to us, and what our own standards truly are.
They protect us from our own uniqueness, so we can avoid the uncomfortableness of rejection and other people’s judgement, until we’re ready to step into ourselves with full pride.
This is a slow process that must be travelled with care. But one we cannot turn our backs on.
In fact, more and more of us are feeling the pull towards authenticity. Where there’s no place for the old, or the façades that take away from true life’s enjoyment and expression.
We’re running away from the shinny and glossy and gravitating towards what’s real, raw, organic and connects us all.
So how exactly does this happen? First, we must be watchful of blanket statements like “discover your unique gifts”, “follow your bliss”, “do what you love.” They become useful at a later stage, but not to start with.
It’s easy to use these blanket statements to add to the confusion and stay buried in the corporate suit. At least, this is what happened to me. For years I read tons of self-help articles containing these quick fix kind of sentences.
But because they’re so generic, they left me feeling even more lost. “Follow your passion” – sure, but how the heck do I do that? Some people seem to know what that is since they were children. I was never sure. I always loved many things.
So here’s what started working. I started analysing my beliefs around different areas of my life and the level of freedom I experienced in being myself in those areas.
Take work, for example. Was I able to openly communicate with people in a warm way? Did communication and ideas come easily, or did I feel I had to be careful and use filters in different circumstances? Could I say what I felt, exactly as I felt it?
These simple questions started showing me how much fear was surrounding me, and how much filtering I had to do on a day-to-day basis. This was my confirmation that several masks were up and I had to get to the bottom of why I felt I had to wear them.
Travelling the corporate world serves a very important purpose. It throws at us challenging people and situations to show us what we need to become, what we need to learn, the tools we need to grab to get fully aligned with our beliefs.
They reflect the parts of us we haven’t owned and the parts of us attached to labels and superficiality. More importantly, they show us where we sell our soul and where we hide from who we really are.
Recently, I shed a mask I knew I was holding on tight to. My role as a COO (in company I do love, I need to clarify). As I prepare to give birth to my second little Goddess, I know it was time to let go.
Even so, it’s amazing how much of my identity is/was tied up to the title. Even my sense of self-worth. I started fearing other people would respect me less, how would I answer the compulsory what do you dos from strangers. Would I start seeing myself as less powerful?
This is the trap. And it has a tight grip on all of us.
I see any label we’re attached to as a mask.
But here’s the beauty of it. When we piece together our corporate masks and look back at the experiences they “forced” us to have, we realise they were all part of the scheme to connect us to who we truly are. As it happens, we were never not on track, even when it seemed so for so long.
Where we lacked clarity, we experienced confusion and delays. Where we lacked patience, something important happened to give us that skill. Where we needed to learn how to use a particular tool that seemed to veer us off purpose, we later realised how it would be useful.
So here’s to the beauty and courage of taking off our masks. Here’s to the projects that will be born out of them, and what we’ll be able to give to those around us as a result.