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And thus we are at the end of the first month of 2014! Is it just me, or did January swish through really fast?!!
I’d like this year to go a bit more slowly- I want to savour this year! How about you? Are you a savour-er? I am of words. Of food, I’m not! I love slow-reading and re-reading sentences before I go onto the next one, but with food, I can’t seem to wait. My husband is tired of getting me to stop eating right off waiters’ trays! “Let them go first!”, he pleads.
In my last post here, Finding and Owning Your Magical Core (Part 1), I dig into why it’s worth everything to ditch our superficial personas, and delve into our deeper selves; I discuss both the beauty and discomfort associated with abandoning our masks…
Today, I’m going to ask why we ever bothered with masks. Where did it start?? What made it necessary?
This is always an easy place to start. As human beings, we live in societies; the norms of the times are established. Go against the norms and look like a freak. Be friendless, or family-less or worse, homeless. Bring shame to your family, or community or religion over seemingly the silliest things! (Oh, and get raped by a righteous gang of villagers??!!)
It is not funny at all. But human beings fundamentally want to belong. Therefore, often they go to great lengths to be pleasing, well-mannered and agreeable. I’ve always found it easier to wear a mask around a lot of my relatives than to speak my mind because there’s never a prayer of being understood or even tolerated … Why create an awkward situation? Save my breath for better occasions and causes right?
This might just be the most devious of them all. To wear it and not know it? There used to be a time when I thought, in order to honor my true self, I need to be everything but pleasing and agreeable; I need to be everything but a follower of the crowd. I forced myself to be braver than I felt, more open than I was ready for… I wanted to renounce my fear completely because I was ashamed of it- I was always labeling myself in the extremes- I would tell myself: “If you let fear stop you or confuse you from taking action, you are a coward.” Either I was brave or I was a coward. And whatever else I was, I could never accept being a coward. I was always on an internal war. And without knowing it, I was wearing another mask.
As we know, the culture rewards the brave risk-takers. But that doesn’t mean fear doesn’t have a place of its own. Firstly, it helps us sense dangerous situations so that we can take care of ourselves and not unnecessarily walk right into it. Secondly, your fear also tells you how much something matters to you- if you are afraid to lose something, how hard you should work to keep it etc. And sometimes in life, you face your biggest fears and failures (they seem to go hand in hand) and realize afterwards that it doesn’t matter that you failed; you’d go after it again because what’s on the other side matters so much more to you. And that’s when you discover your true capacity for courage and perseverance. Because you fully understand your “fear” and overcome it. In that sense, your fear becomes a valuable teacher.
I’m sure Steve Jobs never saw it coming when he was ousted from Apple, the company he founded. At the time, he was humiliated and pained and he considered it one of the worst experiences of his life. However, that didn’t change the way he felt about computers and technology- And he continued to work on what he loved… And later, he explains that being fired from Apple was one of the three best things that happened to him!
How can we transform our failures into the corner stones of our greatest success??
You believe for a long time that you are “this” and you are “that”, and then you think that’s who you really are or that’s “all” who you are (or who you want to be). You could even be proud of that person. Growing up, I used to think I was uncaring and not very social and I prided myself for speaking the truth even when it was very inconsiderate (and unnecessary) to someone else. Until I found incredibly kind people who were also deeply honest and grounded and warm. That really touched something in me…Whatever gave me the idea that sweetness/kindness is always deceptive and weak…?!
I think it is important to understand and appreciate that we evolve as people. Keeping a “static” sense of identity locked in is as much a mask-wearing tactic as any.
The common thread underlining each of these points above is a deep-seated and sometimes unconscious sense of inadequacy, a fear of never being good enough, of never belonging. Steve Furtick says: “The reason we struggle with this insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.” And facebook makes it enormously easy to draw these comparisons today! Brene Brown, the shame researcher, tells us her own story of understanding shame and vulnerability. She is a measurer- and her job is to make certain the uncertain. But after speaking to thousands of people for years, she discovered that the difference between people who struggled with worthiness and the people who didn’t (she calls them “Whole-hearted”) was that the latter embraced uncertainty and vulnerability and simply believed they were worthy of love and belonging. Speaking to all these people, she realized that everyone had the same basic fears and similar experiences; only the whole-hearted weren’t ashamed of it too- they were compassionate with themselves and therefore, they could extend their compassionate towards others.
It is like Wavy Gravy (the clown-activist) puts it: “If we are all bozos in the bus, we might as well sit back and enjoy the ride”. Elizabeth Lesser’s explains the BOZO phenomenon so beautifully in her book Broke Open. I just have to share her words:
“If we’re all bozos, then for God’s sakes, we can put down the burden of pretense and get on with being bozos. We can approach (our) problems without the usual embarrassment and resistance. It is so much more effective to work on our rough edges with a light and forgiving heart. Imagine how freeing it would be to take a more compassionate and comedic view of the human condition – not as a way to deny our defects-but as a way of welcoming them as part of the standard human operating system. Every single person on this bus called Earth hurts; it’s when we have shame about our failings that hurt turns into suffering. In our shame, we feel an outcast, as if there is another bus somewhere, rolling along on a smooth road. Its passengers are all thin, healthy, happy, well-dressed and well-liked people who belong to harmonious families, hold jobs that never bore or aggravate them, and never do mean things, or goofy things, or say something totally inappropriate. We long to be on that bus with the other normal people.
But we are on the bus that says BOZO on the front, and we worry that we may be the only passenger on board. This is the illusion that so many of us labor under. Of course we don’t always feel like this. Sometimes a wave of self-forgiveness washes over us, and suddenly we’re connected to our fellow humans; suddenly we belong.
It is wonderful to take your place on the bus with the other bozos. It may be the first step to enlightenment to understand with all of your brain cells that the other bus – that sleek bus with the cool people who know where they are going – is also filled with bozos – bozos in drag; bozos with a secret. When we see clearly that every single human being, regardless of fame or fortune or age or brains or beauty, shares the same ordinary foibles, a strange thing happens. We begin to cheer up, to loosen up, and we become as buoyant as those people we imagined on the other bus. As we rumble along the potholed road, lost as ever, through the valleys and over the hills, we find ourselves among friends. We sit back, and enjoy the ride.”
What is the single biggest advantage of being a bozo in a bus full of bozos?
You don’t worry about making a fool of yourself. You get over yourself. And you go after what you want.
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