This morning I found a gem in the underlying message of an email sent to me by DailyOm about keeping it real. I have to say that I was nodding and agreeing, ignoring the author's inference to let go of makeup and accept my wrinkles (as if that's going to happen!) until I really stopped to think about it. The idea was that we wear masks to cover ourselves and that we'll never truly be authentic until we take off those masks.
"People who keep it real don’t hide behind a mask to keep themselves safe from their fear of how they might be perceived. They don’t present a false self in order to appear more perfect, more powerful, or more independent. People who keep it real present themselves as they truly are, the good parts and the parts most of us would rather hide, sharing their full selves with the people who are lucky enough to know them... Whenever we feel that who we are is not enough and that we need to be bigger, better, or more exciting, we send a message to ourselves that we are not enough."
Makes sense right? I almost totally agree. Almost. I really feel that we can mold ourselves into anything we want to be - outgoing, happy, loving, free. We can be all of those things because they are already a part of us and who we are - sometimes buried deeply in the recesses of our being. And that's great to be able to express those aspects of ourselves, but sometimes it's the mask that helps us live up to that potential.
I'll tell you that one of the things I have always struggled with is being completely myself in every situation. As a child I was extraordinarily shy. Now people who have met me in person always look at me strangely when I say this, as if this outgoing confident woman in front of them could ever have been shy. Actually, it still pains me to meet new people and go into situations where I don't have anchors in the room. Introversion is my natural state and I force myself to get past it.
For many years I would go into full blown panic when I would go to a networking event. I mean what if people found out that I was odd, that my office often looks like a hurricane ran through it, that I hide my dishes in the oven if I don't feel like washing them, if they see that my head is too small for my butt (yes, it's an issue- don't judge me), or that I just wasn't as funny as I am in my own head? It wasn't that I didn't know my own self worth, it's that I just didn't know if others would.
So I put on a mask. I would be a super perfect woman and as long as I had on that mask I would fit in. I would find a role to keep me busy and of use so I wouldn't necessarily have to mingle - no one questions the woman filling the cups. I get that putting on this mask of perfect wasn't being authentic but I also get that it served a really important purpose - it helped me make friends. It helped me get past my fears of meeting new people and being put in new situations. And the more comfortable I felt, the more authentic I became. In a way this mask I was wearing became the gateway to actually being more me.
The more I forced myself to be outgoing, the easier it became to show glimmers of me. I could be my own quirky self, I could admit to being deeply flawed because I started to believe in myself more and more. I could fit in to places where I had previously felt like an outsider. So I totally agree with the message from DailyOm, "Whenever we feel that who we are is not enough and that we need to be bigger, better, or more exciting, we send a message to ourselves that we are not enough".
It's true - I always feared that I wouldn't be enough. But the message is also wrong. Masks serve a purpose when we are on our journey. To assume that we are all strong enough and confident enough to let our true selves out in every moment of our lives isn't realistic. It's something we can strive towards. We can bring more of ourselves into every situation. And we can use our masks to bring out parts of ourselves that we didn't know we were capable of being. Perhaps putting on that mask and starting to act in a way that we want to be ultimately results in a behavior that is second nature.
We can fake it until we make it so to speak. As a means to an end where in the end we are the best version of ourselves, why not use a little stage presence to get there, right?