Thought Prompt: What Emotional Masks are You Wearing?

I’d like to open this post with a three line workplace scene:

Client’s Boss: Are you ok? You seem a little different or low today.

Client: Yeah, I’m really good. My vocal coach told me that I could show up to this meeting as my authentic self, without forcing a smile or wearing any masks, so that’s what I’m practicing.

Client’s Boss: That sounds amazing! I’m going to practice that, too.

There is so much to be learned from this teeny tiny exchange.

Let’s take a closer look…

This client had been playing a role at work for a while. People had come to expect her to be joyful and energetic all the time, and she was (unknowingly) putting a lot of energy into simply maintaining this appearance, rather than confidently stating her objectives or ideas. Because of this, she found herself in a situation in which her thoughts and requests were not being heard or considered, which led to her feeling unsupported, which was making her feel burnt out and resentful.

I had given her permission to go into the meeting as her authentic, professional, educated and experienced self, and not spend any energy on maintaining her mask, and invited her to notice if anything shifted. She was armed with breathing and grounding tools to keep her calm and present as she put her mask down and showed up as authentically as possible for the meeting itself.

The results were so good.

One one hand, her boss initially – and not at all unexpectedly, thought something was wrong with her. She had let go of the ‘cheerful’ routine.

On the other hand, upon being asked about it her first impulse was to stand up for her authenticity rather than retreat into a fake smile “no, I’m totally fine” mode. Once she did this and realized she was safe, she was able to get to the real work of the meeting, and have an honest conversation with her boss about her job.

After the meeting, she felt so much relief. What a victory to just be oneself and get down to the actual work of doing work! A big weight was lifted.

Additionally, when she bravely and thoughtfully explained the situation, her boss responded with complete understanding, support and camaraderie. This created a beautiful feedback loop of safety. And perhaps his eyes had also been opened to something new, and now he has another tool to help him support his team members.

Everyone wears masks. Even me. Even you.

The story above represents a common experience that women encounter in their personal and professional lives. The ‘you should smile more’ story.

However…

People across all genders, cultures, professional and personal backgrounds will find themselves wearing masks throughout their daily lives for all sorts of reasons.

Clients of all types come to me for things like jaw tension, enunciation problems or projection issues. Not opening one’s mouth to speak is a major indicator of mask-wearing or hiding. In fact, in my opinion, most voice or speech issues are related to mask-wearing or hiding.

What keeps us behind the mask?

Emotional masks are a key tool for living in a social world. They are helpful and necessary. Like other coping and survival strategies, we develop masks as we grow up in order to keep us safe. Sometimes we absolutely need to have a good poker face.

And…

As with other survival strategies that we pick up as we journey through our lives, its helpful to notice when our masks no longer serve us anymore, or when they are trying to protect us from a threat that isn’t real or no longer exists, or when they are actually getting in the way of our safety or causing us problems.

So often we don’t even realize we’re wearing a mask, or recognize the impact it is having.

Our reasons for hiding are usually old and live deep within us. It can be a thought or a feeling we’ve carried since childhood, or the result of an acute moment of danger (social or physical), or a mechanism that developed over years of being treated a particular way.

Because the survival strategy develops itself automatically, we’re not always aware that it’s even there, so like any kind of growth work, it starts with looking around inside the corners of yourself.

Some common reasons for hiding that come up in my coaching work are:

– What if they hear my accent and think that I don’t belong here?

– What if I say the wrong thing or sound like an idiot?

– What if the truth is that I just really don’t want to be here and I’m pretending that I do?

– What if I let my mask go and my physical or emotional safety is at risk?

– What if I let my mask go and other people think I’m a threat?

– What if I’m not who they think I am?

– What if I really need to say something, but don’t have the right words or the courage?

– What if I speak my truth and everything changes?

Any of that sound familiar? Yeah, me too.

By the way, we don’t only wear masks around others, we totally wear masks with ourselves, too! Being a human is so tricky!

Time to look at YOUR masks.

You knew this part was coming. 🙂

Listen, I don’t want to imply that all your masks need to – or even should come down. And I’m not here to suggest that letting go of an old belief or survival strategy is easy or simple. This email is just a starting place.

And…

It’s true that people commonly respond to us in more healthy and authentic ways when we present them with our more healthy and authentic selves.

At the very least, analyzing some of your outdated or outmoded masks and finding one or two to set down will give you SO MUCH energy back. You can then use that energy to foster a sense of genuine safety within your inner world, learn to trust your own authenticity, and start connecting with the world outside of you in a whole new way.

Sounds super exciting and scary AF, right?!

So then, your thought prompt for this week is:

What is a mask that are you wearing that no longer serves you?

What would it feel like to put that mask down and feel safe to be you?

What would feel supportive as you take that first step and give it a try?

Reach out and share your thoughts!

I LOVE hearing from you guys when something in these posts sparks you. Email me directly or leave a comment below.

2 Thought Prompts: Letting Go + Habitual Moods

I’m going to keep this one short, but I’d like to offer a couple of thought prompts that I’ve been using in my own personal development over the past few weeks that have been really impactful.

What is something you need to let go of?

I like to think about this at the beginning of the day to let go of any limiting beliefs, or leftover nonsense from the day before. It helps me focus on what’s real and what’s now. It creates a lot of mental clarity with which to start the day.

I like to think about this at the end of the day to help me let go of any mistakes or missteps (perceived or real) that I might have made, moments of doubt, etc, that I experienced throughout the day. Journaling on this prompt right before bed really helps me minimize the middle-of-the-night anxiety. It has a nice undercurrent of self-compassion and forgiveness.

What is your prevalent mood? Is this how I really feel, or is it a habit? Does it serve me?

This one is great for calling bullshit on yourself. One example is, I am originally from the Boston area, and people from that area looooove to complain. We complain about the weather, the sports teams, our aches and pains, you name it. Complaining about stuff is basically the unofficial love language of New Englanders. It’s how we bond…over how shit everything is. (❤️💩❤️)

Sometimes, when I catch myself complaining a lot (internally or externally), I self-check. Is this really how I feel, or is this just an old habit? Does this serve me? My negativity can definitely be habitual. And it usually isn’t serving me. Calling myself out on it allows me to see what (if anything) is actually bothering me (I’m usually just hungry) and address it, or it reminds me that everything is actually super awesome, and it reconnects me with my gratitude.

I’d love to hear if/what these prompts spark for you. To share your thoughts drop a comment below.

Thought Prompt: What am I Choosing?

Thought Prompt: What am I Choosing?

The end-of-year holiday time carries with it an invitation to reflect, rest, and reset. If your inbox looks like mine, you’ve already been getting a lot of messages with tools and advice for closing out this year, and establishing your goals and intentions for the next year. Both the closing out and the setting up are important processes, and there are many wonderful ways to do both.

Whatever tools you use to close out this crazy year and march forward into the new year with new intentions and goals, I invite you to consider weaving this idea into the mix:

 

👉 Years are made of moments, and every moment is an opportunity to choose.

If 2020 has taught us anything it is that there is a lot that we don’t have control over.  And yet…there is still a lot that we do have control over. Things like our reactions, our activities, how we behave in our relationships, our career moves.

I have recently woven the prompt ‘what am I choosing?’ into the course of my daily life. I find that it is a helpful guide in just about every area of life.

This prompt helps me check in with my mood. For example, if I’m angry I ask myself ‘Am I choosing to be angry? Do I want to be angry? If not, is there another mood I would like to choose?’

It helps me plan my day. For example, when my schedule has too many appointments I ask myself ‘Am I choosing to put everyone else’s scheduling needs before my own? How can I choose to show up for others while caring for myself?’

It helps me come boldly back out to the light when I feel like I’m hiding, and it helps me retreat back to solitude when I feel overextended.

In addition to helping me align with the actions that I take…

 

This prompt helps me stay aligned with who I want to be, and how I want to show up in the world.

Am I choosing love over hate. Am I choosing to model the behaviors I want to see more of? Am I choosing patience, self-compassion, and understanding. Am I choosing to show up for difficult things in meaningful ways? Am I choosing to use my voice for good? Am I choosing actions and activities that align with my purpose?

As with any good thought prompt, this email barely scratches the surface of all the ways this idea can be applied and used to examine what’s going on in your life.

As you close out this year and set yourself up for next year, perhaps the questions might look like:

What have I been choosing?

What am I choosing now?

What would I like to choose going forward?

Perhaps they might look like something else. Perhaps you will choose not to think about these questions at all, and that’s fine, too.

The choice is yours.

Share Your Thoughts.

We’d love to hear whether you found these tips helpful, and what other tips you’ve used to strengthen your voice.

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4 Thought Prompts to Help Start the Day with Intention

Just about every morning me and my bestie do a little check in via text message. The timing of the check in and the content of the conversation flow a little differently from day-to-day, but no matter what else we talk about, we almost always support each other in grounding back into the present moment with these four simple prompts.

This little ritual evolved into being over the past 8 years of friendship, and it has become a vital component of my day. So much so that if for some reason we are unable to connect on a particular day, I will usually stop at some point and pose these prompts to myself. They work great with a friend to hold your reflections and mirror things back to you. They are also fantastic for solo self-inquiry.

The four prompts are:

– Happy New Day!
– How’s your breath?
– What do you have going on today?
– What would feel supportive?

 

Here’s why I find these prompts to be so powerful:

1) Happy New Day!

Happy New Day! is a celebration of the fact that we are here another day. It’s a new day! Yahoo! There is no focus on what day of the week it is. It’s not about living for the weekend. Rather it’s about living each day as if it has the possibility of being the best day ever, because it totally does.

Also, the fact that it is a new day puts to bed any nonsense or shenanigans that took place the day before. Happy New Day implies a fresh start. A clean slate. A chance to show up and try again.

On top of that, Happy New Day also implies a chance to show up with whatever new skills or goodness we onboarded the day before. Had a moment of sheer brilliance yesterday and woke up feeling super confident? Great!  How will you let that confidence shine through and inform everything you do on this fresh clean slate that is called Today?

2) How’s your breath?

I love this question because it immediately calls the person being asked to take a breath. This initial ‘reset’ breath brings you back to your body and back to this moment. It starts the process of calming the nervous system and waking up the cells in the body. It helps the brain become clearer and creates some space and relaxation in the muscles. We can connect with all the good yummy things we seek in our daily lives by reconnecting with our breath.

‘How’s your breath?’ can be a loaded question, or a question you might hesitate to answer because so often we simply don’t breathe. We have a tendency to sit there holding our breath without even realize it. There are gaziiiiillions of reasons why we hold our breath including stress, fear, confusion, curiosity, avoidance, and that go-go-go lifestyle we’ve all fallen into, to name a few. This call to take a reset breath is a beautiful reminder that it’s ok to be in the here and in the now, that you are safe, and that you can not only get through this day or this situation, but that you can do it with poise and grace.

This question is not just a call to notice when you’re holding, though. It’s also a call to notice when your breath is flowing freely and you feel super great. Sometimes in our culture we forget that it’s totally permissible to feel totally great. If you feel really open and full, this call back to the breath is a great moment of noticing that beautiful, fluid, comfortable and happy sensation and honoring it fully. By doing so, you will expand your capacity for comfort and for trusting that comfort is ok.

3) What do you have going on today?

Sometimes this question actually gets answered in the ‘how’s your breath’ part of the flow. That’s because when you begin to notice the quality and presence (or lack of presence) of your breath, you often start to become aware of why it feels that way.

On its own, ‘what do you have going on today?’ is a great way to take a deeper look at what you believe you have to do that day, ensure your heart/mind/body are aligned with the tasks on your calendar, plan your energy management and self care strategy, make space for joy and address negative feelings, and to generally become present to where you are right now, and begin the day with clear intentions.

You may be very surprised at what you learn about yourself when you really start to take notice of what you do each day, and how you feel about each thing.

4) What would feel supportive to you?

This is one of my most favorite questions in the entire Universe.

I love the phrasing of this question for so many reasons. For starters, it takes the charge out of the idea of ‘help’. You can be a highly functional, professional, and productive member of society…and you can be all of those things on an even deeper level with the right support.

Receiving support does not imply weakness. It implies that someone else believes in your strength and that they are there to witness and hold you as you continue to build it up.

You deserve to have people support, invest in, and resource you. Furthermore, there are people around you just waiting for the chance to lift you up even further in your life.

I also love the phrasing of this question because it puts the responsibility on the person being asked to come up with the answer that serves them best. Instead of saying ‘How can I help you?’ which implies some sort of power shift or exchange, it calls the person being asked to pull on their inherent wisdom, knowledge and experience to decide what they need or want for themselves. It puts the role of the asker in service to the askee. It requires the asker to check their own ego and ideas at the door and truly show up 100% in support of the askee. This builds trust and confidence for both parties, as well as the relationship at large.

An interesting thing to note about these prompts: 

Sometimes the answer to the questions is ‘I don’t know’.

How’s your breath?
I don’t know.

What have you got going on today?
Blergh, I don’t know.

What would feel supportive?
I dooooooon’t knoooooooow.

It’s totally ok to not know. You are not obliged to make up any answers, sound clever, do research, or whatever your default setting is when you don’t know something.

Allowing yourself to get to know yourself takes enormous amounts of courage. Simply asking the questions is more than enough. Answers will emerge if and when they need to emerge. Your courageous self-inquiry is the most important element in this practice.

All Day Every Day…

So, that sums up my four favorite prompts to start the day with. These prompts are great for anytime of day, really. They work for any situation or mood…whether you’re frustrated and seek a time out and a reset, or you feel great and you want to memorize that feeling.

How Does this Connect to Vocal Confidence Coaching? 

Q) Sam, you’re sweet and everything, but what do any of these recent email updates have to do with voice, speech, presentation, communication, or what you call ‘Vocal Confidence Coaching’?

A) Everything, my love. Everything.

The sound of your voice and your patterns of speech, as well as how you choose or don’t choose to speak up in a meeting or to give a presentation, as well as your ability or inability to speak up for yourself when it matters most, or any scenario in which you do not feel truly seen, heard or understood all have their roots in your relationship with yourself, and what you believe about your place in this world.

Truly speaking and communicating with clarity and confidence requires an embodiment of clarity and confidence within. You can learn vocal technique to help with enunciation and projections. You can count your filler words like ‘um’ and ‘ah’ and the like. You can learn about eye contact and hand gestures, and all sorts of tactical and practical skills – and any of those specific skills you need to build are woven right into your unique Vocal Confidence Coaching program.

The thing is, if you are continuously afraid to be your most authentic self in a given situation, then none of those skills will fully serve you.

Sure, how you speak, what you say, and how you say it are important.

But if you are constantly hiding, or living an old story of yourself, or worse…someone else’s story of you, then are you really getting your point across? Are you really stepping up into your fullest potential?

Vocal Confidence Coaching is designed to help people become confident and effective communicators and leaders. The underlying requirement is that you’ve got to be willing to explore the idea that underneath the layers of life-crust, shoulds, protective habits, behaviors and beliefs that have built up around you, there is a grounded, confident and self-loving person with a deep reservoir of untapped knowing and potential. These posts are speaking to that person.

If you are interested in getting know that person more deeply, while also building new communication and leadership skills, then book an exploratory call and let’s get curious together about what magical possibilities are waiting for you.

Share Your Thoughts.

We’d love to hear whether you found these tips helpful, and what other tips you’ve used to strengthen your voice.

Tell Your Friends.

Click the share buttons at the bottom of this post to spread the word, if you found this helpful. And sign up for the mailing list for your periodic dose of inspiration, motivation, tips, tricks, and tools to help you Own Your Voice.