How many masks do you wear? I don’t mean physically, but more of a metaphor. Maybe you wear a particular mask to work and when you get home, you change it to be someone else. What mask do you wear in your relationship, with your family and friends, with your boss?
We wear masks to hide what lies beneath, pretending to be something different to who we really are. We do this because we believe the people we encounter want to see something different than what we can offer, and so hiding behind a mask, we can play that part without risking the rejection of our own personal self.
When I was younger, it seemed as though I had a different mask for every occasion. When I went to work, I was confident, direct and patient. When I played sport I was decisive, arrogant and knew exactly what I wanted. When I was at home, I was quiet, relaxed, introspective. If you asked me which of those people was the real me, I would have struggled to tell you.
For some reason too, the results I was getting in my life were a bit disjointed too. I’d make some progress in one area but then become nonchalant and not follow through. I would be happy to take chances in certain areas of my life, but in others I was scared stiff. One of the biggest areas of my life it impacted was my personal relationship. At home I felt I had to be a loving and caring partner, but outside of that I wanted to be adventurous and spontaneous.
Wearing all of these different masks was literally pulling me apart!
I didn’t know who I was, what I really wanted, or which of these traits were real or just acted out. Every time I thought I was happy being one of those characters, I noticed something missing in my life. If I played too much sport, I felt I was missing out on my creativity. If I spent time alone I wanted to be with my friends. So many areas of my life seemed to be at polar opposites for me, and I didn’t know which way to go. I ended up ruining my relationship, stalling in my business efforts and generally hesitating and being noncommittal in most areas of my life. Something needed to change.
One day at a training course, I got to see all of these different elements laid out in front of me. The exercise involved writing out all of the roles we played in life and the parts of our mind that are activated when we do so. Most people had about ten, I was still going strong when I hit fifty. I felt like a jigsaw puzzle that had the box lid thrown away. How was I ever going to put this puzzle together again and be whole?
This was when I started my process of integration and becoming whole.
I started to relax and tried to figure out what I wanted rather than what others expected of me. I started to communicate the same way at work and in sport as I did when I was relaxed and at home, taking the frenzy out of my voice and (tried to at least) listening more and guess what, people responded better to me. I tried to take the courage and approach to failure that I had in the gym and apply it to my business and guess what, I got some better results. I got in touch with the darker side of my imagination and learned to communicate with it rather than box it up and guess what, I found a way to express it in my relationship rather than outside.
Being whole allowed me to reach more of my goals.
If any of this seems familiar, then you need to start to integrate yourself as well if you ever really want to achieve your potential. Until you know who you are and what you are capable of, there is only ever going to be so far you can go before you start to get in your own way.
Check out the three first steps on your path towards personal integration.
Identify Your Strengths And Preferences.
As Socrates said, “know thyself”. It is vital that you recognise your own preferences and what you like. Don’t feel as though you have to act a certain way just because it is popular or someone else does it, how do you want to be? There is no blueprint for successful people, not uniform set of traits that sets people apart. But what all successful people have in common is that they know what they are good at, put their entire being into living that way and keep at it until they make it. If you are trying hard to live a life and it doesn’t feel right, chances are you aren’t being true to yourself.
I was all over the place in my head multiple times per day. As soon as I finished a training and was pumped up, being on my own brought me so far down. I was audacious playing sport but timid in business. I couldn’t predict which version of me would show up, and so had to decide on a mask to wear for every situation. When I became more integrated, I, me, Dan turned up everywhere and it was the same Dan each time. Sure I might need a little bit more courage or confidence in certain situations, but it was never a huge leap. When people know who you are, they interact with you far better, and believe me, you need people around you to help you achieve your success.
Accept All Sides Of You.
This is the tough part. I think we all have a little dark side inside of us that has both the potential to create amazing things but also destroy if not properly managed. How many times have you heard about super successful people falling off the rails when they end their careers, turning to drugs, sex, alcohol. When I hid my dark side away, when I didn’t get the chance to channel it through my passion and when I denied it in my life, it festered until it needed to be unleashed, causing huge amounts of pain and suffering to all involved. Your challenge is to accept that part of you, and then learn to communicate it to those closest to you. Some people may not understand, but those most important to you will, even if it takes some time. Don’t hide it away, embrace it and channel it instead.
Is this a one time process? Absolutely not. I still forget key elements of myself today, but when i find myself wearing a mask, I try and take it off as quickly as possible, getting back to who I really am at the core of my being. I don’t get upset at myself, but smile, remember back to the time when I was really all over the place, and know that I am on the right path.
If you find yourself wearing a mask, do yourself a favour, take it off… now!
(And watch Vanilla Sky too… you’ll see what I mean!)