It appears that most of us are reluctant to reveal our full selves – in social settings, in professional settings, or in new situations. As we delved deeper to understand why, here is what emerged: fear of rejection, fear of leaving ourselves vulnerable and being seen for our imperfections, fear of being judged (or worse, ridiculed), fear of not belonging and being ostracized.
How many of us show up with our masks on as a form of protection? What does this mean in terms of not only how we are portraying ourselves, but also in the reactions of those we are interacting with? What does this mean in terms of our human connections?
How can you be seen when you are armored up your entire life and what people see is what you put out there? Brene Brown
If you feel this way, you are not alone…. the more people we talked to and the research we conducted on this topic revealed that many of us are bringing only a portion of ourselves to the forefront and holding back our truest selves.
We decided to explore this quandary by interviewing one another. Read below what we discovered about each other – and the common themes that stood out:
In what situations are you wearing your persona (a.k.a. your mask) the most?
- New situations – social and work/networking events
- To protect myself.
- I have a story that “I’m not good enough” so this way people will only see what I want them to see.
- In professional situations, I have a belief I need to show up a certain way.
- I’m uncomfortable around new people because what IF they don’t like me.
- I don’t like small talk.
- I have a story that “they really don’t care what I have to say, who I am, or what I have to offer”.
Where do you find you bring your whole self; no mask?
- Mostly with people that make me feel:
- Not judged
- Accepted for who I am
When you are bringing your whole self and revealing this with others, how do you feel?
- Aligned with my values
- Encouraged to reveal more of myself
- Wanting more connection
Why would we not choose to feel this way all the time? Somehow, the perceived payoff of protecting ourselves is greater than the cost of disconnection and inauthenticity.
Protection vs. Connecting & Authenticity
There are many reasons that motivate us to bring out our personas; some of these are embedded in childhood messaging when we learned to adapt behaviour based on cues from parents, teachers and peers. In addition, we notice that the increasing use of technology impacts our ways of relating to people and helps us easily stay behind a veneer. So many of us rely on email, text, Instagram, twitter, snapchat. Picking up the phone is rare. In fact, in many workplaces we consulted, people may be cubicles apart from each other and rely on emailing versus walking over to have a conversation with each other.
Sometime the bravest thing you can do is just show up – Brene Brown
Our ‘social media’ world is one that is filled with images of our happy moments and can create inauthentic realities that others perceive as representative of truth, our whole selves. These are only fractions and slices of our selves.
The question we have is – how do we create more connectedness and authenticity in a world that is moving us further away from relatedness? How do we find the courage to bring our whole selves to the forefront and take risks to be vulnerable?
Tips for bringing more of yourself to others:
- Pay attention to your behaviours and personas that you bring forth in certain situations and see what might happen if you allow yourself to be more vulnerable and show more of your full self. Ask yourself “what would it be like if I brought 10% more of myself to this interaction?”
- Allow yourself reflective time after new social engagements. Here are some coaching questions to guide you:
- When did you feel that you were bringing more/less of yourself forward?
- How did that feel for you?
- Was there something about the interaction that allowed you to share more/less of yourself?
- What might you do differently to allow for deeper more meaningful connection?
- Before entering a social setting that you would typically bring on your persona, center yourself (through mindful meditation, journaling, yoga, nature walks, etc.) and remind yourself of the benefits of taking off your mask and connecting more authentically with others.
- Take small steps. Don’t put too much pressure that you need to go from A to Z right away. Play with it and bring a little bit more of your whole self to each new social interaction.
- Start noticing how you feel when you are really connecting with people. Was the payoff of connection worth the risk of being vulnerable? If not, consider why not.
We’ve all had reasons for bringing on our persona to protect ourselves from being hurt and being vulnerable. And, while we may be feeling concerned about being vulnerable – guess what? So are the very same people we are interacting with. In today’s world, we are craving personal connection and a sense of belonging.
As you reflect upon this tension between being authentic and being vulnerable, we encourage you to acknowledge that the shift to create relatedness must come from YOU!
By finding the courage to reveal more of your authentic self, we know you will feel more energized, fulfilled and happy. Taking small steps and seeing the positive results will no doubt have you wanting to continue bringing more of your authentic self. We have found that by connecting genuinely with others, being truly interested in who they are, asking meaningful curious questions can often help those we are talking with to reveal more of their authentic selves. This is the dance of connectedness. Embrace it, generate it, build on it and be committed to bringing more and more of who you are to your connections.
Authors: Erica and Andrea are twin sisters and both live in White Rock, BC. They are not only sisters but best friends. They continue to challenge each other to live life authentically and to bring their whole selves forward.
Erica Groschler, is an organizational development consultant who’s made working with people and organizations the focus of her career. She works with individuals and teams, assisting them to bring more of their full selves to the workplace by connecting to their values, their passion and their purpose. Through coaching, team development, culture and change initiatives, Erica continues to impact the alignment between employees’ purpose and the organization’s goals. Erica brings a combination of training in Human Performance Technology, Conferencing methodology for large system change , Complex Adaptive Change, Leadership Circle 360 process, and Group process. People appreciate her practical, results oriented approach and ability to bring the soft side to the hard side of business.
Andrea Shalinsky, certified life coach, is known for her compassion and empathy and for embracing life at its fullest – even when things are tough. Before becoming a life coach, Andrea worked with businesses improving performance through customized training. Throughout her career, what Andrea particularly loved was helping people discover their passions.
As a life coach, Andrea works with people who are ready to discover their unique passions and gifts – no matter what it takes. Having undergone many levels of transformation and change in her own life gives Andrea an edge as her breadth and depth of experiences helps her clients feel like she “gets them.” Andrea’s softness combined with her “kick-in-the butt’ coaching style helps her clients feel safe and confident to make sustainable changes for a fulfilled life.
Andrea has a BCom and MSc and is a certified coach.