"Look at what you bring to the world, not what you lack." - Miranda Kate

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Living without The Mask: How to be Okay and Be Vulnerable at the Same Time

Image of looking through winter bare trees at a lake with text: Be clear about who you are, find your inner calmDo you struggle to let others see who you really are?

Do you find it hard to talk openly about your thoughts and feelings?

Do you let others takeover conversations and keep your mouth shut? 

I discussed the ‘mask’ we create to protect ourselves in my Being Authentic post, and the steps we can take to remove it.

The next step is living without it.

At first this can be difficult; we may feel exposed, vulnerable and raw, causing us to flick between being defensive and being over emotional.

What is being defensive?

Being defensive is when we react sharply or aggressively to something said to us, about us; a comment that we perceive as negative and take as a criticism or insult. It hits a nerve – the nerve being our insecurity about ourselves.

“Defensiveness is usually someone silently screaming that they need you to value and respect them in disguise.”- Shannon L. Alder

We worry that what they said about us is true; or we may feel that we are NOT like they said, but worry that everyone believes we are. Either way it triggers a feeling of insecurity about who we are - a momentary identity crisis.

A defensive reaction will often bring about an uncomfortable or negative response, giving us reason to chide ourselves about our reaction later. This may lead us to return to the person we were defensive with and apologise, maybe becoming tearful or emotional at the same time as we expose our inner self. But this too can leave us feeling bad about ourselves, as though we have over shared, as we go from one extreme to another - defensive to submissive.

If we are not sure about who we are inside, we struggle to portray who we want to be seen as on the outside. This creates a conflict - a conflict based on a lack of confidence. We are conflicted between wanting others to accept us and being true to ourselves. And in lacking self confidence we may believe that who we truly are will not be accepted by others, hence the reason we created the mask in the first place. 

To live without it means letting go of pleasing others, seeking their approval, or putting their needs before our own; it means being honest about who we are - being vulnerable.

“Vulnerability is the courage to show up and be seen.”- Brene Brown

So as we struggle to find our true selves and work out who we are and start living that truth,  we can overreact and overcompensate. Neither of these two extremes represent who we are, or who we want to be, and we can remain on this sea-saw, struggling to find the balance for quite some time - on occasion returning to living behind the mask.

But the balance can be found once we start being comfortable with who we are and accepting ourselves, inside and out. Only once we stop fearing other people's responses and start embracing who we are, will we be able to show our true nature in a calm, positive way.

“The more you know who you are, and what you want, the less you let things upset you.” - Stephanie Perkins

Here’s a list of ways we can do that:

           Start caring about ourselves more and others less.
           Stop apologising for who we are.
           Stop overriding our own feelings to please others.
           Accept that not everyone will like us, just as we don't have to like them. 
           Be sure and honest about the things we do like and the things we don’t.
           Be proud of ourselves, and appreciate all we do and achieve.
           Remember that we are the most important person in our life.
           Tell ourselves: All of me is what makes me the special unique person I am.

Give it a try and see if it helps find you the balance when living without the mask.

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