Ever been to a masked ball? There’s something quite exciting, even liberating about it. You don’t have to be YOU and no-one will know the difference anyway.
To the outside world you show your façade, what happens under the mask only you know.
Although it can feel liberating initially; fine for the duration of the ball, longer-term it’s a trap. It can become stifling under that mask, hard to breath, feel hemmed in. But for those watching from the outside, nothing’s changed, they don’t notice you gasping for breath. You haven’t let the mask slip, so they don’t notice.
When I think of the many places I’ve worked, a few had encouraged me to be myself but there weren’t many. There were hierarchies to be observed, invisible lines to circumnavigate. Expectations once set, can be difficult to change and more so with time. Often I found I was wearing an ‘appropriate’ mask. If this was true for me, could it also have been true for others?
Of course every place of work needs some structure and guidance from the top level but the true role of leaders is to ‘get out of the way’ so that all employees can do their best work. Often I found resistance to looking at things in a fresh way and sometimes even a resistance to have the discussion by my seniors. Good ideas were encouraged by some of my managers but were often thwarted by others before they had a chance to become something. And as in most organisations, some jostling for position and authority by ego-hungry individuals wanting to take sole credit for the work of their team; not a healthy state of affairs.
May be that was all a sign of the times? The popular management style of the times. May be the situation is much better now? Please tell me it is…
Is the place you work full of managers who are brave and encourage you to do your best work by being you?
Or do you find strong resistance, a stamping of authority when you try to help and truly connect?
And if it’s the latter, what a waste.
A waste for you, because you can’t be open and honest, you’re in hiding and for your organisation or company because they don’t get the best of you.
Within organisational settings we learn the unwritten rules by watching our seniors, what they do and don’t do and generally how they behave. (Watch my 2 minute video on leadership for a little more on this).
Letting the mask slip
I certainly know I’m at my best when I’m being me and I know I’d rather meet you as you rather than an imitation of some-one you’re not. I remember how liberated I felt in those places of work where I was able to be me; I had more energy; I connected with others in a more honest and helpful way and much more besides. Research tells us that we aren’t ‘neurologically mature’ until we’re in our forties; let’s summarise this as being comfortable in our own skins (you can read more about this fascinating subject here). But you DON’T have to wait ’till you are in your fourties. You can learn to be more confident and assertive at any age because we do need these skills if we’re to let the mask slip in a healthy way at work.
What I realised very quickly was how much easier (less effort) it was to be me than try to be some-one I was not. I’m encouraging you to do the same.
What I’d like to know is if you’ve ever felt like you were wearing a mask at work?
Tell me how it is/ or was for you in the comments box below.
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