What mask do you wear?
On Halloween, we get the chance to be anyone we want.
When the night ends and you’ve eaten more candy than you should, your mask comes off and gets stored away. Unless you choose to leave it on. Sometimes we keep our masks close by, to slip them on throughout the year. Taking on a different personality can help us feel brave. Other times we put on the mask we think the people around us want to see. Then there are some costumes we've worn for so long, we're not even aware of them anymore. We've been thinking about some of the masks we see people wearing all the time. Consider which ones you might be wearing, whether intentionally or not.
If you wake up in the morning already panicked about your to-do list and prepared to plaster on a smile and drudge through it, you might be disguising yourself as Wonder Woman.
The mask: Wonder Woman pretends that she has everything under control at all times. She flawlessly manages meetings and projects, along with a full social calendar and family responsibilities. She never misses a beat, and she looks fabulous the whole time doing it. Her co-workers wonder where she finds the time. Her family and friends wonder where she gets the energy.
What’s underneath: Taking on so many responsibilities at work and at home means you don’t have any time to pause, process, and recuperate. You beat yourself up for making a mistake and you hold to yourself to the highest of standards at work, at home, in health, and in fun such that it always seems you're chasing your tail only to fall short of your goal.
Take it off! Everyone needs help now and then, and asking for it doesn't make you any less smart, capable, or powerful. Diana Prince (Wonder Woman's alter ego) relies on her friends in the Justice League to help her take down the bad guys. Take stock of all the other super people on your team and see how you can delegate to them to make life more manageable. You may even be surprised by the secret powers some of the people in your life have to offer.
What if you really are doing it all-- and no one ever seems to notice? You may be a ghost in your own life.
The mask: With your ghost mask on, you may as well be invisible. At team meetings, your quietly murmured comments go unnoticed until someone else repeats them more loudly. That person always gets the credit for your ideas. When it comes time for promotions, you are constantly skipped over. You're not even sure that some of your co-workers know what your name is.
What’s underneath: You have great ideas to contribute to the team, and you know that you can get the work done. Sometimes you feel that blending into the woodwork is worth it because while you don’t get the praise you deserve, you also avoid the criticism you are afraid to receive. The thought of being in the spotlight and putting your ideas forward is intimidating, so you rely on your ghost status and let other people take the lead.
Take it off! You don’t have to be the most extroverted person in the room to make yourself heard. You do have to cultivate your self-confidence and believe that your ideas and your work are worthwhile. That's not a change that will take place overnight, but you can get started with small changes. Keep track of your contributions to a team project, so you can point to specific successes. Make a point of introducing yourself to people around the office. Most importantly, remember that no one can make you feel invisible except yourself. So get out of your own way. It’s time to get recognized.
Some people seem to don an eyepatch and a hook whenever they lose direction in their lives. Could you be masquerading as a Pirate?
The mask: The Pirate is always looking to take other people’s loot! Whether it’s more money, a shiny new job, or a promotion to a corner office, they are always envious of what other people have. They are clever, resourceful, and relentless in the pursuit of what they want; even willing to push their own crewmates overboard if it means a better chance at getting to the gold. The ends always justify the means on the high seas.
What’s underneath: You are a hard worker who has what it takes to get things done. This type of jealous behavior tends to come out when you've lost sight of your "true north." When you’re not totally sure what would make you happy, it seems easier to latch on to someone else's idea of success. Until you figure it out, this is a cycle that will repeat forever-- there is always going to be someone who has something that you don’t. You'll jump from success to success without ever getting that feeling of fulfillment you're looking for.
Take it off! Dedicate some time by yourself to thinking about what you really want. Without others around, you'll be less focused on what they've decided they want. Identify a few treasures that you want to work towards. Set attainable goals that are in line with your values and hold genuine interest for you. When you're focused on your own treasure map, you'll have a place to channel all of your creative energy and will be able to let go of the things that aren't meant for you. Get rid of the manipulative behavior and be happy for the people in your life who succeed in ways that are important to them. You've got your own loot to go after, and your own adventure to begin.
Didn't see yourself reflected as Wonder Woman, the Ghost, or the Pirate? Try this mask on for size.
The mask: Clowns are easy to spot. They’re the ones talking the loudest, laughing the most, and holding the attention of the whole room. Everyone in the office knows them. They have a witty response for every situation, and never seem to take anything (especially themselves) too seriously. Even when everyone around them is panicking, clowns are quick with a joke, making others feel like they are silly for feeling stressed.
What’s underneath: Turns out that the clown is a natural people-person who places a high value on what others think, but is scared to show true emotion. Clowns try to mask how much they care about their work and others' opinions by slapping a joke on everything and shrugging things off like it's no big deal. But it takes a lot of effort to hide those real feelings behind jokes and snappy comebacks. And keeping up the facade takes more energy and commitment than a clown would care to admit. Perhaps more importantly, without a way to vent their true feelings, clowns continue to simmer inside, until the inevitable (and often unexpected) explosion.
Take it off! Laughing and having fun is fantastic, but there's no need to make a joke out of everything. In fact, the best leaders are the ones that show their genuine emotions, and actively listen to the people around them instead of holding the attention for themselves. Go ahead and share your true emotions. Your colleagues like the clown, but they'll love the real you. Creating an environment where your teammates can ask questions and get real answers from you is much more valuable than a funny comment. The clown mask may get you attention, but it won't get you the respect, camaraderie or authentic results you want.