As we navigate life’s path, it’s interesting the things that will come up over and over again.  I’ve often mused that life will keep giving us the same lessons over and over again until we really learn them.  And really learning something is more than learning it on a theoretical level, or a “head” level as I tend to call it.

Many of life’s lessons are what I call “heart” level lessons.  These are the ones that we must feel.  The ones that we need to feel to heal past experiences, so we can let more love into our life, and the shadow of the inner saboteur becomes fainter and fainter.

We all wear a mask

I had one of these experiences this past weekend.  I was on a girl’s trip to Rockport with some friends of mine.  The four of us met in a hiking meetup group during the pandemic and have been very close ever since.

I hadn’t slept very well during the trip and the last morning I found myself in a very raw and emotional state.  The final morning, I started to cry, more like allowed myself to cry and feel some things I’d been shoving away for a while.

And then I found myself worrying about things like:

“What will they think of me?”

“I’m ruining the trip.”

“I look silly and I’m embarrassing myself and them.”

I sat out on the dock in front of our lovely pastel colored condo and watched the sun come up.  The beautiful purples and pinks shimmering through the clouds, the seagulls diving into the water looking for a morning treat.  I cried, I was breathing deeply, I was letting out fear I’d been carrying for a while.  But I didn’t want to bother the group.  I separated myself on purpose so I wouldn’t be a burden to them.  The fear and embarrassment of showing strong emotion in front of my newish friends was just too overpowering.

I was startled when I felt Carol’s hands on my shoulders.  She started to rub my back, and I let her.  The important point of this story is I let her.  It wasn’t easy I will say, even for me, a coach, someone who teaches communication skills and emotional intelligence.  It still wasn’t easy.

So often in life, I think we learn that we must be strong.  And we take on a very limited view of what that means.  We put on a mask that hides our true nature from the rest of the world.  I think I’ve often prided myself on being that person in the group that has her proverbial “shit” together.  That knows what she is talking about.  That never loses her cool.  Because I somehow deduced that people won’t like me or want to be friends with me if I let them see who I really am.  That it’s not acceptable to ever be “out of control” or need a moment to cry.

Which frame do you choose?

You see, there are two frames to this story.  One is, I’m embarrassing myself in front of them by letting my guard down.  I’m making them uncomfortable because I somehow assume that they are as uncomfortable with emotion as I can be at times.

Or the other frame is the text that Carol sent me later in the day when I got home:

“We all have hard times.  We can think therefore we shouldn’t burden others with ours.  But if it’s not possible to be vulnerable with our friends, them whom?  And why even have friends then?  We are all friends here.  Real ones.  We can freely share with each other.  We feel your pain and hold you in our hearts and prayers.  We love you.”

Exact same situation, two completely different ways of looking at it.  The question here is, which one do you have the courage to choose?

Vulnerability takes courage, it takes effort.  I could have shoved my emotions down again the other day.  Sometimes the hardest thing in life is to really allow ourselves to be seen in our darkest moments.  But when we are willing to go there, that is how the light gets in.

Coaching questions for thought

Where in your life are you wearing the mask and not allowing others to see the beauty of who you really are?

How would things change for you if you took it off and allowed others to see an imperfect you?  What could open for you and for them?


Shelley Pernot is a leadership and career coach who is passionate about helping her clients discover their strengths and talents and find a career that utilizes them.  Reach out to me here for a free consultation to learn more about the coaching process and how it may benefit you!

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