Kindling #5: Dear man, You become more by peeling layers off your mask


Hey, so I’m here in North Holland and we are doing leadership development training for 12 senior leaders in a large international company and that made me think of the topic I talked about in the first video around male identity, masculinity, and the mask we are all wearing.

And I say we because I think we’re all wearing a mask, myself included of course so the interesting question is not whether you wear a mask, it’s rather in which phase of life are you in right now.

Are in a phase where you’re adding layers to your mask a face where you’re peeling off layers of your mask, or in a phase of fiercely defending the mask you built up over the years?

You know, like we say in Buddhism: a person that says they are enlightened that’s the surest sign they are not, and I think it’s the same with these masks.

A person that says: “I’ve dropped my mask, I have no mask”. In my experience they are defending a mask they built up and they’re so afraid that if they start to let go of the mask, peel off a layer or two that they won’t be liked, that they won’t be loved and I can understand where it comes from.

You know I’ve had a thick mass myself, especially in corporate. You know, starting out young, trying to fit in, looking up at the leaders I saw, trying to walk the talk and use the corporate lingo that they were using, dressed the part and the whole thing.

And that creates a dissonance, with your identity. I see this mask bit like those facial masks that women would use and each layer represents the gap between your idea of a perfect self versus where you are today.

In the first half of life, in the phase that is called culturization, you add layer after layer.

It’s the face where you build up, you try to fit in, you try to find a meaning, find your tribe so you can have a sense of belonging and then in the second half of life you are in a phase where it’s all about becoming whole again so you start to peel off the layers, and that’s a challenging process because for men.

If you look at the idea of what a man is today, I don’t really see any strong male role models around, and if you poll men and women about what is a real man they will use words to describe that such as it’s a fighter, it’s a provider, it’s a wise man, is a person that is in control of things at all times and nowadays also a man has to be metrosexual, you know take care of himself and look good and have a good body.

And if you combine these stereotypical roles of what man should be with this idea that men don’t talk, and men should be the strong silent type, shouldn’t show vulnerability, I think you have the potential for a lethal mix and I’m not saying that any of these role models are wrong, like the fighter, provider, wise man, etc.

What I’m saying is that if you strive for perfection in each of these five, six, seven roles there’s a lot of opportunity to feel like a failure and that’s a lot of men that do feel like failures and unfortunately the statistics show a pretty sad picture in terms of suicide rates among men, around mental health and self perception in men.

So given the challenge of peeling off the layers a lot of men choose to stick to the layers instead and fiercely defend it and the challenge with that is twofold I would say: first of all for every layer you put on you’re numbing your heart.

You create distance between your hearts desires and the way you live in this world and secondly people can actually see that you’re wearing a mask even if you think you’re playing the role very well is pretty obvious ,at least to me, when people are defending a mask and it makes me sad.

And while I cannot do the work for those people with a thick mask, to start peeling off the layers, I’m trying to be there, by listening encouraging them to talk, to have meaningful conversation and by sharing my story, my pains, my gains and my rewards for starting to open up and live a little bit closer to my own heart.

So if you’re one of those men out there that know that you’re wearing a mask and it’s causing pain, because the mask is so thick that you’ve lost the connection to your heart and you’re afraid of dropping a layer or two, because you’re afraid they won’t be liked you won’t be loved, I just want to reassure you, that if you do if you peel off a few layers, if you dare to open up your heart and have meaningful conversation, you’ll be even more liked, you’ll be even more loved because human connection comes from our vulnerability.

So I encourage you to embrace life, open up to your heart and start peeling off the layers of that mask.

Thanks for listening, talk to you soon again!

Kindlings are my way of keeping myself accountable for breathing the fire that’s in my soul and I hope to inspire others to do the same in the process.

The word kindling means a small and dry, easily flammable material to help a fire get going. Once the kindling is burning, it can ignite the larger pieces of wood in your fire.

That’s is what aspire to do – Help you start your fire so you experience the warmth of your soul and feel inspired to keep feeding the fire that’s in your soul. 

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