Thursday, 2 May 2013

Vulnerability....A Dirty Word?

Yesterday I referenced another great blog and I have been very excited to spend some time reflecting on what I read.  It is from "The Actual Pastor" ..whose post I found through my sister-in-law's, friend's Facebook page post....go figure. 

He talks about how when as a child he was ridiculed and teased at school and how he began to mask his vulnerability to being hurt  ( blog post April 29, 2013)  After all, didn't we all get told: "Don't let people see that they have gotten to you!"; "Just laugh it off"; "Suck it up buttercup!"

" are not sure who to be anymore, or what to do. We just know we never want to be rejected like that again. So we create masks that protect our actual and vulnerable selves, projecting an image that seems more sturdy and less susceptible to trauma.....The problem is that the longer we wear these masks, the more fused to our actual selves they become, and it becomes harder and harder to see and know what’s real and what’s not."

I find some of my masks are very heavy.  The work ones are by far the heaviest.  At work I must appear successful and knowledgeable, but also have patience and diplomacy as I lead union employees in a climate of increasing outsourcing, ridiculously rapid technological change and lack of confidence in our leadership.  I call it my cheerleader mask.  Have you ever been a cheerleader?  No?  Well I can tell you it is thank God I can take it off at night.  After work came mommy mask (which encompasses domestic goddess, tutor, driver, and dog walker and expert belly scratcher).  No mask on?  Well that is no one....and no one deserves a break...she's just a no one.

Now that I am not working I am able to take a peek under these masks ---and see what is underneath.  They have been such a big part of me---and with being such a fantastic barrier against vulnerability,it has been a real challenge to even decide if I want to consider taking a good look at what they are, how they got there and if I want them off .

My therapist tells me it is a choice.  These masks have served me well and brought success after success in my career and home.  So I have to choose whether I want to take them off.  She sees I am scared...hence all the crying that happens in these sessions as I thrash about like a two year old having a temper tantrum "I don't like all these feelings! Why is everything so out of control!"  when I know she is right and I know that by masking my vulnerability I am masking ALL feelings.  This includes joy, happiness, pride, love, trust, --all things important to making connections in our lives --to ourselves and others. 

Tomorrow I am going to spend some time looking at the three masks of vulnerability as described by BrenĂ© Brown and posted in the Actual Pastor's blog,  Each one merits some in depth review on my part and as excited as I am to write about this, I need to slow down and take my time.....
What sort of masks do you put on?  Do you have different ones for different times?  One for times with family? When you are at work? With your spouse or significant other?  Good friends?  Not so good friends? Your kids?


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  2. Brilliant!
    I think we all wear individual masks...for various reasons. I guess we can grow into these masks very honestly. As kids many families would often have the "us at home" chaos and the "Lovely family" outer presence. Our first mask?
    I have different responsibilities and roles in a day. Is THAT is a mask or a role? Is a Mask a protector? Based in fear? Will it protect me from vulnerability? Keep me safe?
    I think it is easy in that inner and outer family pattern to move to a "What if they knew the real us/me??..they would never approve/love me..etc" thinking pattern = Fear based (but isn't the real me enough most days if not all days?)
    If masks ARE protection (then can I work this role in my day and keep a bullet proof mask in my bag if I need it?) or I will live honestly and authentically feeling less vulnerable? I am safe being true in this role or that. True to me.
    Or something like that...

  3. I agree totally! I think these masks are crafted by our culture and upbringing and fit to easily because they are reflected in the people we are closest to.

    I had a long chat with my mom today and she told me a story about meeting a new neighbour. The neighbour was taking a break from her yard work, saw my mom outside and wandered over to say hi. She was wearing old workbooks, was covered in dirt and her hair was plastered to her head with sweat.

    "I could just never go out looking like that! I would never even just go out to the car in the driveway looking like that!" The neighbour then offered up..."You know, last year, I decided I don't care what I look like anymore!" Now maybe she mentioned that because of the way my mom looked at her, or maybe she was actually putting on a MASK of being comfortable with this choice---but my mom went on to say, "You know though, I wish I could be like her!" When I asked why she couldn't she explained it was how she was brought up.... "I can see your grandma now in the kitchen before Dad had to go to work. Dress, apron, rollers out and hair done, earrings on...asking everyone what they wanted for breakfast!" My mom was brought up by a stay at home for her...she learned that as a stay at home mom herself, she should always have the house clean, the gin chilled, the children tidy --or maybe better yet---out of the way after a long day's work -- and the earrings on.

    Ka-POW! Moment for me. I mean my therapist has been reminding me that working full-time while doing the majority of parenting and housework due to having a spouse who works crazy hours and trying to measure myself up against the quality of life and housekeeping of my mother is INSANE! (Ok not a good choice of words...) but I got the Ka-POW moment when I realized that my mom was a product of HER mom. And since she was a stay at home mom when many moms were working..she had BETTER have a spotless house and be an all star soccer mom (baseball mom is more accurate...) and look good doing it!

    See my post from today....let me know what you think!


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