Monthly Archives: October 2013

Take Off The Mask, But Try A Costume

Halloween prompted us to think about the masks we’ve worn in life as well as the idea of “being ourselves.” There are definitely times when it’s appropriate to wear a mask, a face that we present to the world that only partially shows who we are. There are even times when a “suit of armor” is required to protect ourselves from the blows of judgment inflicted upon us by others knowingly and unknowingly. As life unfolds, and as more of these experiences occur, most of us begin to question the price of wearing these protective devices. Are these masks are still serving us or have we become trapped behind them? Do these shields really keep us safe or have they become tools for self-injury – no outside judgment required?

Consider using Halloween as permission to try two things. First, discard any guise that has become limiting or painful. Let yourself transcend the caricatured get-ups that are more about “shoulds” and expectations than truth and self-respect. Conversely, consider trying on some new costumes. Put on and try out ways of being that highlight different, new, exciting, and/or fun aspects of yourself.

Costumes can be liberating and provide us a means to move into and act out new roles, exploring new sides to ourselves. And the “costume” need not be elaborate! Any change, small or large will suffice. The key is to “wear” something to help you feel free to be something that is not typical for you. Here are some methods to assist you in giving costumes a go:

Literally wear a traditional costume to a Halloween event, a party, or even around the house to experience yourself as a different “you.” If wearing the costume while with others, notice how they respond to you, notice how you act – what’s different, what’s surprising, etc.?

“Act as if.” Which means that you act as if a particular thing were true. For example, act as if you are happy with who you are, imperfections and all – what would you do, what would you say, how would you carry yourself if this was true for you?

Put on a hat, stylish or goofy; dress in a color or type of fabric that is unusual for you; accessorize with a scarf, bowtie, jewelry, etc., that someone you imagine to be playful or interesting would wear. Use these items to help you become this other person – how would you feel, what would adventures would you enjoy if you were able to explore reality from this more upbeat perspective?

Self-Discovery Tool Number 65
Remove the masks and armor holding you back. Release the need to style yourself on the outdated expectations of others. Dress up as your best self, choosing guises that reflect the true you. Experiment by trying on new “costumes” – use Halloween as an invitation to play and uncover more about who you are!

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Soft Skills: Not So Soft After All

It used to be the case that behaviors that exemplified qualities like “compassion” and “cooperation” were labeled as soft skills.  Although this term isn’t heard as much as it once was, the perception remains that the skills that fall under this heading are less important and easy to perform. In fact, the implication is that only those who aren’t tough enough to make it in the “big leagues” would concern themselves with soft skills. Pause and reflect with us for a moment – is being considerate really that easy or are soft skills actually pretty hard to practice at times?

If you stop to think about it, generally, it is easier to be selfish and self-focused than it is to be self-less.  It’s quicker to do what you want to do than it is to take the time to learn about the needs of others and compromise.  It’s simpler to judge or deny someone else’s experience than it is to keep an open mind and explore multiple interpretations of events.

Think of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. or Gandhi.  Who could argue that they chose an easy path?  Their work was some of the most demanding work ever accomplished and this work focused on soft skills.

In honor of the many service-oriented “soft-skills” champions – many of whom will never be famous or recognized for their work – let’s take on the very challenging practice of being “soft” whenever possible.  Here are some simple ways to get started:

  • Hold off on commenting even if you “know” you’re right; listen carefully and let others fully state their point of view before you consider “correcting” them
  • Ask yourself if what you are about to say will make the other person feel criticized or affirmed; if it’s the former, try reframing your comments so that they’re about improving the ideas rather than evaluating the person
  • Examine your motivations – reflect on whether what you are about to do is going to help others as well as help you; challenge yourself to do things that meet more than just your needs
  • Get curious and strive to put yourself in others’ shoes; contemplate people’s environment, background, and unique circumstances to see how these factors might contribute to their beliefs and attitudes

Self-Discovery Tool Number 64

Soft-skills are hard to do.  Looking out for number one is much easier.  Challenge yourself to tackle the truly tough stuff such as kindness, understanding, and patience – we promise we won’t think you’re “soft”– instead you will be following in the footsteps of some of the strongest and bravest people to ever have lived!