As I reflect on 2016, I can’t but help think of all the incredible, deep, grounded, intelligent and loving men and women that I have had the privilege to talk to. Some stand out more than others, and some I have come to care about as if they were friends that I know in real life.
One of the things I have been thinking about is the masks that so many of us wear to protect ourselves from others. I know that in my life I have at times felt that I needed to “hide” who I am in order to be accepted and gain approval from people who visit my blog, or sign up for coaching.
I recall a conversation with an instructor in a business course I took when I first started out on my own. I didn’t realize just how that one very brief conversation held me back until a few years ago.
The instructor asked me what “my business” was about, and I told him a “Life/Relationships Coach”
You will not believe this. He told me, “I don’t think anyone is interested in what someone from Africa has to say about life. Is there something else you can do?”
The irony is, I reacted just like an African. I was so stunned that I didn’t say anything in response. I just went “Ah!” (silently) and acted like I hadn’t heard what I just heard. This is one of the reasons many people think Africans have nothing interesting or useful to say. Except for a few of us, Africans parse their words because that’s how we are raised. Our first concern is “how is what I’m about to say going to affect ‘our relationship’?” By the time we have a response or answer, the rest of the world has moved on. Not very good in a work/business environment, but very good for relationships.
Hours later in the safety of my home, I came up with all the ways I could have responded. Some very intellectual, others witty and some not so holy.
One thing is for sure. I wanted to prove him wrong. There are people who want to hear what someone from African has to say about life, and about relationships.
I haven’t forgotten those words, and as much as I hate to admit it, they have held me back in some respects.
That brings me to the masks that so many of us put on because someone said something about us that made us believe that we are not good enough just as we are. That we have little or nothing to offer in a relationship (or life), and have to be a certain way to be approved, accepted and loved.
If you haven’t realized it yet, the mask or masks are the problem, not you. You are good enough just as you are. The masks are the ones holding you back.
Here are two examples of just how unhelpful whatever mask you have on is.
Example One: Above average intelligent, sensitive, respectful and loving soul. He thinks he has little to nothing to offer the world. Beats himself up for ‘mistakes’ most people wouldn’t care about, and loves his ex like few men can love a woman.
His mask: Damaged and Helpless.
His energy: Too fragile.
Example Two: Intelligent, out-going go-getter with incredible drive to succeed. Talks about how beautiful, sophisticated and well-connected she is. Sees anything that may come across as criticism as an attack on how great she is, and attacks back aggressively. She can’t understand why her ex can’t see how great they are together.
Her mask: self-absorbed and superficial.
Her energy: Shallow.
Behind the masks are two special people good enough without their masks. But for some reason they think they have to wear masks to protect themselves or gain approval and acceptance.
The point is, whatever masks you are wearing isn’t nearly as good as who you are without it. The voice telling you “I don’t think anyone is interested in who you are just the way you are. Is there someone else you can be?” thinks it’s protecting you, but in reality, it’s holding you back.
I saw this interview of one of my favourite artist, George Michael (R.I.P) on The Huffington Post.
Oprah asked, “Are you worried about American fans ? now even ? with this new album accepting you as a gay artist?”
George Michael’s response, “Really, I don’t need the approval of people who don’t approve of me.”
Whether it is your ex, or someone in your life… you don’t need their approval if they don’t approve of you.
It’s been an incredible year. Thanks for the support of all of you who read my blog and especially those of you I have had the honour to call “my client”. You make it worthwhile. Thank you from my soul! Merci!