What Masks Are You Wearing?

John Gamades
Jun 30, 2020 · 5 min read

COVID-19 has created an odd environment for all of us, one that involves wearing masks. It’s been challenging to get used to covering our faces and breathing behind that material. For many, the experience has been claustrophobic. These masks have become a source of friction — choosing to wear one or not to wear one has become divisive. More than just face coverings meant to protect, they’ve taken on meaning like few things before.

The interesting thing is that many of us have been wearing masks for a long time…

I remember the days when we were launching our agency. My two partners and I had jumped into working for ourselves. We had spent a decade designing together, and now with years of experience under our belts, we had skills. We were ready. So, we shifted from serving a very niche space, the gaming industry, and expanded those boundaries to serve a wide range of clients. We blew up the sandbox we had been playing in for so long. In an instant, we began having conversations with successful entrepreneurs, established accounting firms and financial advisors, leadership coaches, manufacturers, HR firms… they couldn’t have been any more different than the gaming environment we had left.

I can’t speak for my partners, but in those early days, I personally felt very out of my element. My comfort zone had not only been stretched, it had also been completely bulldozed. To say I was overwhelmed would be true. To say I was terrified would be more accurate. Every day I was having conversations with people that seemed miles ahead of me. Add to that the fact that I had just gotten divorced and started back at zero, and my confidence was in the tank. Each morning, I woke up and put on one of my masks to hide my insecurities. Some days I wore two or three of them at a time…

The “I’m worried they’ll think I’m not smart” mask… I wore this mask a lot back in those days. I was seated at the table with people who were wicked smart. I’m smart too; I knew that, but I had to remind myself of it repeatedly. During meetings, I couldn’t hesitate to talk, or our business would never grow. So, I had to open my mouth and speak, always risking that I would say something “dumb.” Over time, I realized that I have valuable insights to add and that my voice is worth listening to.

The “I’m scared they won’t like me” mask… This one came from a fundamental lack of self-confidence, fueled mostly by my divorce. There was a certain level of anxiety that came from that separation. I was concerned people wouldn’t think I was smart, but I also wondered if I was even likable. It brought me back to those years where I transitioned from my private middle school to a public high school. Most of the faces were strangers, and I just wanted to feel like I fit in. I wanted to find my tribe, to be liked, to have friends. This felt the same, and so I wore a mask to hide that fear.

The “I’m not as upscale as they are” mask… Pull up to a meeting in front of an office with manicured landscaping, park next to a fresh-washed Mercedes, walk into a hip furnished lobby, and have “Joe” walk out to greet you in his pressed dress shirt with custom cuffs. I could barely pay for my gas to get to this meeting, and now I’m walking into this… Turn me around, show me the door, and let me run. I didn’t fit this mold, and they would be able to see that. Back in those early days, when money for rent and groceries was tight, days like this caused me massive dread. As challenging as they were, these days also helped me envision our potential. I’m not saying I wanted all of those things, but seeing them reminded me that where you start isn’t where you have to end.

The “I’m afraid they’ll find out I’m a fake” mask… “Fake it ’til you make it.” For a little while, that’s what I tried to do. Wearing this mask worked fine, but behind it, I always feared being outed. What if they realized I was faking it? What if they uncovered the fact that I didn’t have all my crap together? The interesting thing about this mask is that no one wants to hang out with a fake anyway. Want to be attractive? Try on some genuine authenticity instead. I’ve come to understand that when we get real, we become magnetic.

The “What the heck am I even doing here?” mask… This was my favorite mask of all. Sitting down at the table to join my first mastermind group, I was surrounded by nine business owners who were more established, more experienced, and just plain looked more successful than me. Everything about them reminded me that I didn’t belong with this group of leaders. That is until they started to share their stories. The more I immersed myself in this group, the more I realized that we’re not that different from one another. Their transparency was freeing — all my fears, anxieties, and insecurities were normal. I wasn’t alone.

And so, I took off my masks…

Here’s a funny spin to this whole mask conversation. The older I’ve become, the more experience I gained, and the closer I got to all of these people I was so afraid of… I’ve come to realize that they were wearing masks too. We all have them, and we all wear them from time to time. The secret to creating real, impactful relationships is to get vulnerable and take them off. When we do that, everything changes.

The Takeaway

Keep your COVID-19 mask on. Wear it as much as you want. But the rest of those masks, the ones that are knit with fear and keeping you from being real — get rid of them. Set them aside, step out in a little bit of faith, and be you. You don’t need to hide anymore…

On the count of three, let’s take off our masks.

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Originally published at https://depthnotwidth.com on June 30, 2020.

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John Gamades

Written by

Creative, entrepreneur, blogger, husband, and dad — focused on cutting through the negative noise with a message of positivity and growth.

Age of Awareness

Stories providing creative, innovative, and sustainable changes to the ways we learn

John Gamades

Written by

Creative, entrepreneur, blogger, husband, and dad — focused on cutting through the negative noise with a message of positivity and growth.

Age of Awareness

Stories providing creative, innovative, and sustainable changes to the ways we learn

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