The Mask of the Professional

  • 1
  • August 07, 2014

author-credit-Matthew2

I want to acknowledge that sometimes I wear a mask. It’s the mask of “everything is great!”

This mask can cast me into inauthenticity, even when it comes with a good intention. For example, I may think I need to appear to be something I’m NOT in order to “drum up” business. Or I might only share my success stories with others in order to “look good” or appear to have it “all together.”

When left unchecked, this is the mask of the professional—posturing in the best light possible and trying to minimize or hide anything that I believe makes me appear weak or incapable.

So I’m questioning and challenging this pattern in me, especially when I enter the marketplace—especially when there’s more to say about what’s behind the scenes.

I’ve been taught NOT to blur the lines of professionalism and my personal life. I’ve been encouraged to just grab the 1-dimensional mask of the professional and shove the rest of me in a far-away basement.

With this thinking ingrained in me, I’ve uncovered subconscious internal commands like, “Don’t share too much of yourself—you’ll come across as selfish” and “If they smell any self-doubt, they will ignore you to death” and “Don’t share what you care about because it might be used against you.”

However, wearing that mask and hiding my deeper self in the marketplace (or any place!) leaves me feeling awful. And being 1-dimensional makes it a lot harder to stand out in the marketplace and connect with my best-fitting audience.

What to do with this mask?

loosen-maskRyan and I truly believe that our best clients have been the ones who are committed to the same change we’d like to see in the world—such as “a world without fear-based marketing”. It took us some time before we were willing to say this out loud to others, let alone have the words on our website.

Yes, we were afraid.

As we’ve discovered for ourselves, the antidote to creating “fear” in the marketplace is first about “transparency”. In other words, communicating openly with one another about what feels true for us, letting our professional AND personal sides out at the same time; all of which can create human connection.

Imagine if marketing began there. Some of our greatest needs could be met simply by receiving messages sent from this intention to remove the barriers to reconnection. To me, good marketing evokes reminders of what matters most in life. The most powerful marketing, however, is delivered by both the reminder and by the trust that the messenger is practicing what they preach. Building that trust requires transparency and therefore, being vulnerable to what others may say or think about you.

On another level, addressing the “fear” in marketing dynamics also requires encouraging “consumer choice” that is free from expectation—in other words, following the principle that our potential customers get to decide what is right for them, for themselves. If we pressure them because we think we know what’s best for them, or because we feel the urgency to make money, then that relationship becomes transactional. And in my experience, no “transactional” relationship has ever left me feeling very good about myself.

Our Soulful Brand clients have been the kind of people who want to do marketing in a way that honors their own true voice without controlling others in the process. They want to be in integrity because their work is not only about creating a sustainable business, it’s about following a calling to help people in a specific way. But sometimes, sharing that deeper calling can feel strange at first—it can feel “unprofessional.”

What if we let loose that “professional” mask a bit?

loosen-mask-moreI don’t mean becoming irresponsible or reckless. I mean accessing a deeper part of ourselves in conversations, both in-person and online in the marketplace. Imagine if we could use our marketing efforts as a vehicle for sharing possibility and letting others choose freely where they wanted to play and with whom? Imagine if we could be transparent in a way that left us feeling more powerful instead of weaker, while practicing acts of vulnerability?

In conversations these days, before Ryan and I speak about the particulars of our business with others, we’re practicing sharing our experience and what matters to us first. Before we describe the process around what we do with clients, we talk about why we got into this work in the first place. We’re telling our story, which includes our own challenges from the past (even though the mask of the professional says, “don’t admit you’ve had any challenges!”)

By leading with our WHY in this way, we’re letting a very personal purpose be present when we express ourselves. This doesn’t mean always saying “what our purpose is” to others, word for word, as this can feel canned and inauthentic to the moment. This means that regardless of what we choose to say, we practice communicating in a way that “shows” people what we believe in—in our pauses, in our breathing, in our presence, in what we don’t say, and in how we treat them.

And many times, I still feel like a beginner in this process.

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