Unmasking the hidden essence of the self

What creative genius lies behind the mask?

Have you ever wondered about the essence that we can hide even from ourselves when we construct a mask that is useful to us as 'protection' until we realise that we are even shielding it from ourselves?

As part of my challenge to integrate more of my heart/mind/spirit in all contexts -whether work, home or play, I have recently re-visited my childhood memories, as I am certain I haven't always perceived this world as fragmented or compartmentalised. This journey of remembering and learning from my younger self has been enlightening to say the least, and more fun than I envisaged. What creative curious expressive fun essence lies hidden behind the mask?

I have uncovered many decisions along my 'growing up' that has more often than not separated me from my head/mind, from my heart/body and goodness knows how unaware I have become of my spirit!

I have always wondered why I wanted to serve and help others so much ... and my exploration of the Enneagram with my fellow Meta-Coach, Jay, helped me better understand the virtues and vices of the so-called Helper - '2'. It is socially rewarding to be generous and people-pleasing (virtue) but not at the expense of not knowing one's needs enough to help oneself nor express it (vice).

I identified this decision I made as a 6-year-old. On this day, my great-grandmother (who has had a tough life widowed when young) found me playing with 'paper dolls' that I had created myself. She told me that when I went into primary school the following year, it was going to be a tough world out there. No more fun and games. I had to give up playing with dolls. When I refused, she picked up my paper dolls and burnt them in front of me. I felt so horrified and resented her behaviour so much that I decided I was never going to have anybody dislike me the way I did her  - ever. I was always going to be approved of and loved, and would never show that I was wanting of anything from anyone. I constructed this mask and have hidden behind it ever since... And my great-grandmother achieved her outcome: she helped me 'protect' myself from the hostile world.

Funny how such a  construct served me for a long time too - and I have built my success in life around it. Now that I have not allowed myself to feel many emotions that relate to my needs, let alone express them for so long - it has been near impossible to navigate what it is that is authentically me. Hence, my current journey inwards to find my essence behind that mask- and in so doing, I have uncovered a colourful and often joyful childhood when I was more integrated than fractured as an individual!

I was sharing with my friend Peter (who was once a coaching client of mine) about how easily I slip into the head space (to analyse, to strategise and to logicalise) especially when I am about to disassociate from a heart-felt emotion I wanted to avoid. In other words, I have learnt over the years to move into my head when I didn't wish to deal with the body. eg I have certainly been able to override feelings of exhaustion to regularly complete tasks well into the wee hours of the morning, and be up at crack of dawn to get into the daily routine. Or when somebody (like Peter) thanked me for supporting them - I usually brushed it away with a muttered logical comment  such as "You did all the work" and discounted the warmth of emotion as embarrassment rather than joy.

Peter's feedback: he concurred with me that I was one smart cookie - and cheekily added that I choose to be hard on myself and avoid feelings (even the good ones) especially when it is about satisfying my needs and celebrating my achievements. What's more, I usually have a scotoma over the spirited side of me that energises and adds value to others. In other words, when the creative and curious essence of the child in me beamed forth, I didn't even realise it was there. Wow - that was some feedback!

I don't remember being always like that - so encouraged by friends like Peter and colleagues like Jay I have chosen to travel back in time to re-discover when I had an 'integrated self' as a child.... and I recalled many beautiful memories of the younger Yvonne .... a poignant one is the little toddler who can run naked  in the warm tropical rain despite my mother's reprimands to come in before I catch my death of cold!  When did I decide that others had sovereignty over what frivolous things I choose to do!?

I decided to give myself permission to be like 'the little girl in the rain' again ... and I am inviting inspired thoughts of what I can do which is the adult equivalent of that freedom of 'being' again. Since I would like not to allow my head to rule over this - I am keeping an open channel for any ideas that may jump into my consciousness to give myself an opportunity to experience the spirit of the moment - just for me.

What can you suggest that will help me recharge and reintegrate my heart/mind/spirit? How do I allow 'the little girl in the rain' to manifest today?

I have often marveled at the learning partnerships from unexpected quarters (eg children, team, pets, strangers in our travels etc)  that grow us  as leaders .... what new insights in self-leadership can we gain from remembering our younger selves?