Taking off My Mask of Leadership!

June 16, 2014 By Croft Edwards - No Comments
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      I have been recently involved in deep transformational coaching of my body, via the Strozzi Institute. This work has focused on how I show up as a leader. As a result of the sessions, I have come to recognize the literal mask that my facial muscles have been wearing. This mask has been powerful for me. It has shaped who I am and helped me to become the leader, the father and husband I am. It has also become “less” useful for me. It has not worn out its welcome, but is a mask that I am choosing to take off and only use when necessary. Let me explain more.

     Growing up in a divorced household, at a young age, I became the man of the house. I learned to control emotions and “grit my teeth” to deal with adversity. I modeled my father and how he dealt with adversity and the divorce; biting my lip and getting to work (a skill he likely learned from his father, not out of options but out of the only tools his father knew how to use). I learned to rely on myself and navigate the tough times. This self reliance was further embodied as I ventured 2000 miles away from home to attend college in a state I had never been. My self reliance further grew as an Army officer, learning through the institution how to lead and get results; how to survive in foreign lands; and how to rely on myself through tough times. Little did I know, as I was wearing the armor of a soldier, my body underneath was also putting on armor.

     I put on a powerful mask, and have worn it or years, and this is what it looks like. My forehead is tensed slightly which raises my eyebrows. The sides of my face are tensed to help my eyes close slightly and deepen my focus. This focus enables laser-like determination to get the job done. My jaw is tensed, my teeth slightly gritted, steeling my face for battle, willing me to stay the course and meet my objectives.
     What I now see is this mask has limitations. When I am with my family, it is easy to wear the mask and not be intirely present. It allows me to focus on getting tasks done, instead of laughing with my daughters or listening tenderly to my wife. When my children share frustration or sadness, the mask tightens, I grit my teeth and become frustrated at them (steeling myself for the battle about to happen). I become short tempered, which teaches them to control their emotions, instead of hearing them without the mask. When my wife opens up about her day my mask prevents me from being with her in partnership.

     Through somatic body work, I am learning to release the muscles in my forehead, open my eyes and allow them to see the beauty around me. I am learning to let go of my jaw. As this happens I become more present, I breath more deeply, my body opens up to new possibilities of love and caring. I am more present with my wife, my kids, and those around me. My face is softer, my muscles more relaxed. All of this is possible as I take off my mask. It also shows up with my clients and business associates, enabling me to connect more deeply and more genuinely.

      I will still use my mask. It has shaped who I am. It has helped me to achieve many things. I now choose to wear it only when needed. I now see that viewing the world without the mask opens me up as a leader and as a human. I am not at war any more, I am at peace.
    What mask do you wear when you are interacting with the world?
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