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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