Where are you hiding? What are you hiding? These aren’t questions people generally ask
themselves (unless you live in the coaching world...Hollah to my fellow coaches!) Most of us would wonder what the *bleep* this meant? I’m not hiding anything except maybe some Ghirardelli from my kids. In February I switched up the format of my in-person women’s
group and brought in journaling prompts for them to consider and discuss. One was “What secret are you keeping from yourself and everyone around you?” In other words, what are you hiding? I give the ladies of the “Women Who Have Your Back” group so much credit for being open to whatever I throw at them and for one in particular who coaxed each of them to share. It turns out that we all have something we’re hiding; fears, a forgotten passion, a burning passion, shame, guilt, the real you...this list goes on.
I was fully unprepared when this question was brought to me as a participant in my own coaching/leadership group. It was presented as “what mask do you want to take off”. In other words, what mask do you subconsciously wear to hide...fears, vulnerability, etc.? You’d think after the Women Who Have Your Back meeting, I’d be ready for this question and not completely thrown off my game. You’d think. I was asked this question during a hands on exercise, not just as a topic of conversation. My subconscious went bezerk. It threw a full-blown panic attack my way, I’d never experienced anything like it. My chest went hot, my head was spinning with a very real fear that I’d left a curling iron plugged in at my friend’s house where I was staying. I was sure her house and the surrounding town homes had burnt to the ground and it was all my fault. I couldn’t catch my breath and I sure as hell couldn’t pay attention to the exercise that was going on in the room around masks. What were they saying? Doing? I couldn’t focus. Then a little voice questioned whether I was doing this to distract myself from the mask question. Busted.
It took some deep breaths and a few minutes to slow my heart rate down enough to look at the mask. I used to think that I was this weird mixture of an introverted extrovert. I’m pretty outgoing and friendly, but would get exhausted and need alone/downtime to recover. But, the mask exercise showed me that I genuinely like connecting with other people, making them feel comfortable and included. Where I run into trouble is when a conversation lulls and my inner critic pokes her head up to yell at me. She’s convinced that if people aren’t talking or laughing there is something wrong with me. According to her, it’s my job to keep things lively and if it stops people will decide in that moment that they no longer like or want to be with me. That, my friends, is where the exhaustion comes from. But, if I shared this mask/fear in a group wouldn’t they shy away from me thinking I was a fake? Was I fake? I actually think this moment of clarity was the furthest thing from being fake, I was taking a really honest look at what was driving me. After I shared, none of other women stayed away, in fact one woman had a mask that was so similar we bonded over our commonalities.
What I learned is that I really enjoy connecting, it is when it strays into inner critic territory that I run into trouble. I am practicing reminding myself that none of this is my job, I’m just there to enjoy others’ company. I am not responsible for them or their happiness. It was a huge leap into my truth and is followed by baby steps in changing my behavior.
So, ask yourself where are you hiding? What role do you play? What mask are you wearing? And what does that mask cost you? For me the mask was getting in the way of real connection. It’s hard to stay in the moment when your inner critic is screaming.
Let me know if you want some support as you examine that question. You might be really surprised at what it opens up.