Removing the Mask and Showing up as YOU!

mocha moments

What will it take for you to remove your mask and bring the REAL you to your job? To the business?

I’d just had an early morning meeting with a client. We were discussing the performance of her team and wondering in particular about this particular person – their moods, needs, and how to handle them going forward. One of the things my client shared was that she thought that what we were really dealing with was a low self-esteem issue.

Now self-esteem is usually described as low or high and we usually interpret it to mean how we feel about ourselves. When you ask most people how they feel about themselves – they usually say “ok” because on the surface they don’t actually hate themselves. Some go to lengths to describe how much they love themselves based on how well they treat themselves, how they dress etc.

On the drive back into Port of Spain I was listening to Dr Charles Richards, Psychotherapist and Psychologist and author of the book Psychology of Wealth being interviewed by Darren Hardy for Success Magazine and he was identifying signs of low self-esteem. Someone with low self-esteem:

  1. Tends to be hypersensitive to criticism – doesn’t take criticism very well
  2. Is hard on themselves
  3. Finds difficulty forgiving themselves for mistakes
  4. Doesn’t take responsibility very well often blaming others and feeling victimized
  5. Might boast of their accomplishments in an effort to increase their own feelings of self-worth
  6. May often feel inferior but also can feel superior to others
  7. Avoids taking risks
  8. Tend to be people pleasers saying what they THINK people want to hear from them

In my head I was saying “the client is right. It is a low self-esteem issue we’re dealing with!” I called to congratulate my client on the positive diagnosis but got forwarded to voicemail. Something hung on with the low self-esteem issue though. Seems it wasn’t over for me.

Fast forward to the following morning and I’m doing my Morning Pages which is really a fancy name for writing three pages full in my journal of whatever comes to mind. Let it all fall out onto the paper – an exercise made popular by Julia Cameron in her fabulous book ‘The Artist’s Way’ and her recent book ‘The Prosperous Heart.’ So I’m writing and writing and I begin reflecting on another conversation I’d had with that client about the fees that a young consultant was charging where more thought seemed to go into the fee-setting and not enough into the service provision and value added. And right after that I wrote that I had low self-esteem. I was surprised but I also felt lighter and immediately more comfortable with myself for the admission. Pretty much like what is required in any anonymous program – the awareness and admission that “you are it.” I then identified things that I was doing in my own life that were clues of my recent realization. Like deliberately playing a small game and deferring to others because I thought everyone was smarter than I was and more intelligent.

Morning pages completed, on a high note I might add, I started to think about self-esteem in general. I decided that I was going to listen to Dr Charles’s interview a second time and take notes.

Low self-esteem is not always easily recognized because of the many faces it wears. My research uncovered three in particular taken from the University of Texas Counselling and Mental Health Centre’s web site page:

  1. The Imposter: acts happy and successful, but is really terrified of failure. Lives with the constant fear that she or he will be found out. Needs continuous successes to maintain the mask of positive self-esteem, which may lead to problems with perfectionism, procrastination, competition, and burn-out.
  2. The Rebel: acts like the opinions or good will of others—especially people who are important or powerful—don’t matter. Lives with constant anger about not feeling good enough. Continuously needs to prove that others’ judgments and criticisms don’t hurt, which may lead to problems like blaming others excessively, breaking rules or laws, or opposing authority.
  3. The Victim: acts helpless and unable to cope with the world and waits for someone to come to the rescue. Uses self-pity or indifference as a shield against fear of taking responsibility for changing his or her life. Looks repeatedly to others for guidance, which can lead to such problems as unassertiveness, underachievement, and excessive reliance on others in relationships.

This entire series of events made me begin to think about the problems we face in our lives, in our businesses, at our jobs – was low self-esteem at the base?

Dr Charles concluded that there are no specific steps to raise self-esteem but here’s where you can start:

  1. First be honest with yourself. You know you best. Based on what I’ve shared so far you might be able to catch a glimpse of yourself.
  2. Start keeping a journal and start recording your thoughts, feelings and actions. Identify periodically how low self-esteem manifests itself in your life
  3. And finally don’t be afraid to seek professional help. Depending on the issue this may or may not be a psychotherapist but may take the form of a good friend, a coach or business thinking partner – someone to help you root out all the thoughts and tentacles that have been permeating and affecting your life and business adversely.


Know that you’re wearing a mask and trying to hide your low self-esteem when you:

Try to look calm when you’re not; try to hide your embarrassment when you think you’ve made a mistake; attempt to look like you understand a discussion when in fact, you don’t; try to look confident when you feel inadequate; and exert a lot of energy trying to “look good.”

If you want to really move out of being stuck and struggling this may be just the place you need to start. It’s ok. Ask for help now and begin removing the mask that has been holding you back and sabotaging your performance!


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