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August 20, 2013     0



A topic that keeps getting brought up by my clients is authenticity and learning how to show up as the real you in all areas of your life. Authenticity has been a buzz word for years and I think many people are tired of seeing it. But I think the reason it keeps coming up is because we live in a society that tells us we’re not good enough just being ourselves….that we need to be more, have more and do more in order to be happy and whole. A few weeks back, on my Blog Talk Radio Show, we dove into the topic of authenticity and the masks people wear in different areas of their lives.

First, let’s break down what I mean by a mask. Masks are pre-meditated, fear based misrepresentations of who we really are. We wear masks in many areas of our lives for fear of rejection, judgment or ridicule. Masks differ from person to person and are based on individual life experiences. In the context of this topic, life experiences make up who we are and what we’re AFRAID of. As a result, masks vary from person to person and impact different areas of our lives (work, home, gym, social settings, etc.)

Gay men, in particular, are no strangers to masks. As children, we wear masks because we sense we’re different than other children and so desperately want to be accepted. In order to get the approval of our parents and teachers, we may put on a “good son” mask at home and a “teacher’s pet” mask at school. If we’re trying to be accepted by our peers, we may put on the “class clown” or “jock” mask. Pretending to be straight is a far too familiar mask many of us have worn for fear of rejection, or worse. I remember juggling all of these masks at different points of my childhood. No wonder I entered my 20’s with only a glimpse of who I really was.

As we grow into adulthood, our masks grow up right along with us. In our gay adult lives, we may want to impress our boss, so we put on the “professional overachiever” mask. If we’re afraid to assert ourselves or show our boyfriend who we really are for fear of rejection, we might wear the “perfect boyfriend” mask and always be on our best behavior. If we’re trying to get the attention of a hot guy at the gym, we may wear a “cool guy” mask and strut around and pose in front of the mirrors.

Gay, straight, man, woman, child…it really doesn’t matter. This impacts everybody. Why? Because as a society, we spend way too much time externally focused, looking for societal cues on how to behave and seeking advice from others in order to make decisions about what’s best for us. As a result of this overdependence on external sources, we move farther and farther away from our TRUE selves.

So what can you do if you’re ready to keep it real in all areas of your life and you’ve lost sight of who you really are under the many masks you wear? Turn on your “internal guidance system”. Much like the GPS in a car, your internal guidance system, or intuition, can lead you back to who you really are and what you really want in your life. I’m a firm believer in looking inward for answers to your life’s questions and learning to hear and trust your intuition is the first step in getting back to YOU in all areas of your life.

A simple way you can turn on your internal guidance system and begin peeling away the masks you’re wearing is to start asking yourself questions when interacting with others in all areas of your life. Some examples of truth seeking/mask crushing questions include:

  • Is the person I’m being in this moment afraid of something? (judgment, ridicule, rejection)
  • In this moment, am I behaving a certain way to seek validation or gain acceptance?
  • Am I acting or putting on a show?

There are also some “red flags” you can be aware of when interacting with others that will help you realize you’re wearing a mask:

  • Agreeing with others to gain their acceptance…even if you don’t agree with what they’re saying
  • Bragging about anything in your life/showing off
  • Embellishing your life situation (inflating your income level, lying about your title at work, spending beyond your means in order to keep up with the lavish lifestyle of your friends)

Next, start tracking your mask wearing and interactions with others for the next week. My clients can attest to the fact that I’m a huge proponent of writing things down. My suggestion is for you to keep track of the answers to the above questions or the “red flags” you notice when interacting with others. Write about the masks you were wearing. Get to know them and give them names like I did above. Maybe you can even figure out why you created them to begin with? Also, make sure you write down any interactions where you were completely comfortable and at ease. Maybe it was with a good friend or a sibling? These interactions are authentic and provide guidance on how to show up as the real you in all areas of your life. And if you identify an area of your life where you really feel you can’t be yourself, question how healthy it is and start to focus on ways to change or improve it.

Remember that when we look for approval, acceptance or validation externally (friends, boss, that hot guy at the gym, etc.), we move farther away from our own self-love and self-acceptance. Wearing masks and misrepresenting ourselves keeps us in a state of unrest and keeps you at odds with yourself. And even when we get the external validation we so desperately want, it’s fleeting at best. Only by looking inward, through our own acceptance and love, can we come fully realize who we are, what we want and what we’re capable of.

Awareness is powerful but it can be rendered useless without action. Knowing you’re wearing masks is only part of the solution. Patiently taking action is the other part. In other words, you’ve been wearing these masks for a long time, possibly your whole life. Understand that you have been conditioned to behave this way and it will take some time to recondition yourself to put the real you forward in all situations. It took me some time, but I stuck to my guns and was able to make that change. If I can do it, YOU can do it!

So what kind of masks do you wear? Can you think of ways you might be able to take one or all of those masks off to show up as the REAL you in all areas of your life? Join in on the conversation by leaving your comments below.



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