Halloween is over for another year and although it’s nice to dress up in scary costumes and masks, reality is calling. The security of hiding behind a mask can be comforting but why do so many of us choose to leave our true selves hidden away? It’s a sure-fire way to lose focus on the important things in life.
Hiding behind the mask is a pretty common phenomenon in the early stages of coaching. New coaching clients will initially hide away their true selves; perhaps believing that, as their coach, I may judge them for their weaknesses or challenges. It can take a little time to gain their trust and help them feel confident enough to remove the mask. That’s the point that we start to make real progress and focus in on achieving their career goals.
What stops you from being your true self?
Much of it can be down to the very real fear of being judged by others.
Am I good enough?
What might others think?
Do I fit in?
Rather than just be the ‘real you’, it can seem easier to wear the mask. You try to please others to such an extent that you change your persona and behaviours according to what you think others want. This can be confusing and time consuming since you’re constantly checking that your behaviour is in line with the other person’s expectations. Your own values and beliefs are forgotten.
Imagine giving yourself permission to remove the mask and consistently be the real you? It can feel like a weight has been lifted. You’re no longer battling against your inner voice.
Working against that internal desire to be liked by your peers can be tricky, so here’s how to kick things off:
1. Focus on what’s happening externally rather than what’s happening in your head. Acknowledge these thoughts when they arise but stop them in their tracks by asking “What would I do right now if I didn’t care what others thought about me?”.
2. Assume others are acting with a positive intent. Approach every conversation with that mindset and it will change your perspective and remove the fear.
3. Your mistakes don’t define you. Worrying that something might go wrong makes you focus on being judged rather than doing the best job you can. You’ll learn lots from any mistakes you might make, but believe that every step forward is progress.
4. Stop looking for approval from others. The moment you stop obsessing over how others see you, you’ll revert back to your true self and start focussing on the task at hand. That’s how to get things done!
5. Get in touch with your values. Spend time identifying the things you really value and stay attuned to these values in all situations. You’ll start to naturally do your job and live your life in line with these core beliefs.
6. Write a journal. Journaling is one of the best ways to keep in touch with how you think, feel and behave towards different people and situations, especially in the workplace. Reflect back on your entries regularly and raise awareness of your thinking patterns and purpose.