Unmasking the truth

“We can never fully hide who we are behind a mask.”

Last week’s article underscored the belief that at times, wearing a mask allows us to break out of our shell and exhibit an unrestrained side we normally wouldn’t want others to see. Interestingly, a few comments pointed out that on occasion, some use masks as a crutch or even worse, how masks can evoke a dark side in others. While there are harmful or negative metaphors which certainly can be associated with wearing them, the article’s intention was to raise awareness that some of us should embrace these masked talents and allow them to shine.

Too often, we are confounded by our own inhibitions and insecurities, leading us to make excuses for reasons to remain in the shadows or behind the mask.

Self-doubt is likely the most common reason for underachievement and disappointment in our capabilities. All too often, we perceive ourselves as ordinary, average, or unexceptional, and any recognizable talent we may demonstrate is something everyone else undoubtedly can do with remarkable ease. This one thought alone is the biggest lie we could ever say to that person staring back at us in the mirror.

When others we know undergo a lack of self-confidence, we’ll attempt to encourage them by saying that everyone is unique and has particular talents. However, the moment we experience a similar struggle, those very same words which rolled off our tongue, never afford us that same inspiration.

Why is it so easy to recognize talents, gifts, and skills in others yet so easily dismiss them in ourselves?

While there are myriad explanations why we act this way, basically, 99% of them boil down to shame – that is to say the negative things we’ve come to believe about who we were and are. From a very early age, we get bombarded with others saying hurtful, damaging, or destructive things to us. In addition, when we’re told those things by people we love and trust, it intensifies those words – and feelings – even more.

One way to overcome these negative beliefs we hold about ourselves, is to “unmask” these untruths we’ve been told, and begin to view ourselves with a different, more positive perspective. Hold fast to the knowledge that everyone is unique. And that “everyone” includes you!

If only the remedy were as easy as taking off a mask, that would speed up achieving more self-esteem. However, there is one key ingredient which will help you in your battle to defeat shame. For most of your life, you’ve most likely believed you were many of those untruths told to you, and because it has been a part of your thinking for that long, it has become habitual or even worse, factual.

But it is not! Learning to change these kinds of thoughts about ourselves doesn’t happen overnight. It takes a lot of practice. It’s also helpful to remember that when you do slip up, forgive yourself for not remembering to have confidence. Similar to anything which we strive to improve, it takes preparation, practice, and dedication to accomplish. Is there anything as important as self-esteem and confidence?

This week, see if you can catch yourself in moments of self-doubt or insecurity and tell yourself you’re not really that person. It can begin a whole new chapter in your life’s purpose. I look forward to your comments.

The Masquerade

Photo by Thomas Ploch on Unsplash

“Donning a mask may unleash some unforeseen talents.”

Although “All Hallows Eve” – later shortened to Halloween – is not celebrated worldwide, many do enjoy dressing up in costumes and becoming a different version of themselves. It often liberates and provides many a sense of encouragement allowing them the freedom to do things they normally wouldn’t consider doing merely wearing their “everyday” clothing. It can turn shyness into audacity and apprehension into action. This transformation is often the polar opposite from what we’d normally expect from that person.

Oddly enough, adorning a costume and exuding conduct different from our normal behavior frequently requires no apology, and that is how it ought to be. It’s not too dissimilar from going to a concert and being the entertainer rather than being the one who is entertained. At times, others are amazed by this duality and it may even expose a few hidden talents.

However, once we step back into the clothing to which we are accustomed, so do the predictable actions return that others are used to expecting. We hesitate or may never dream of doing those very same actions we do behind that mask because it might create some very uncomfortable feelings.

Perhaps there are countless reasons why a few threads and some face paint can completely transform our personalities and inspire us to do things we’ve never dreamed of. But if that transformation is constructive, positive, and/or beneficial to us, why not cultivate it into who we are?

It may be a challenge to pinpoint the reasons why these costumes open up a whole new side of our personalities, but regarding the reasons why we clam up once we return to normalcy, are pretty clear.

The first reason is that many of us are conditioned to embrace “normal” and discard change. Comfort lies where things remain the same or change happens at a snail’s pace. However, one of the greatest lessons to learn is that we grow best when we get outside of our comfort zone. Another way of looking at it is conformity often constrains or restrains growth.

The second reason would be a lack of self-confidence. Inexplicably, just a little bit of anonymity can provide the courage to step out of that comfort zone and afford us with an assurance that we can do it; even if that mask isn’t really concealing our whole identity. Logically, this makes no sense yet undoubtedly, it happens countless times especially around this time of year.

It shouldn’t be difficult to imagine having the courage to do the very same things that we’ve done while hiding behind a mask. After all, we are the same person. Although masks can and do act as support, think of them more as training wheels on a bicycle. There are times when we need a push or even a gentle shove and it’s a great feeling to know that support is with you. All of this culminates in raising our self-esteem, adding to our confidence, and even opening some doors we never dreamed were possible.

This week look for occasions when that mask can be removed and a bold, confident person seizes you and your actions. Find those situations and step out of that comfort zone transforming you into a powerful and empowered person.

My thanks to Photo by Thomas Ploch on Unsplash for the beautiful photo and I look forward to your comments.

Bad for Business

“The bottom line for business is that integrity is not always good for the bottom line.”

When writing about the virtues of integrity, a huge dilemma is that its definition, quite often, is distinctly unique to each individual. Two different and principled people can possess completely contradictory opinions on a subject yet both provide compelling arguments for each ones’ point of view. However, what has been very disturbing is seeing the lack of integrity which so-called “smart” businesspeople are demonstrating. It’s as though they realize owning integrity has damaging effects to their profit margins.

I have nothing against ingenuity, inventiveness, or entrepreneurship; nor is there is anything wrong in wanting to earn lots of money. Where the problem lies is when a business venture leads one to overlook the value of integrity for the sake of earning an extra buck. Most often, that kind of opportunism leads to unwarranted damage and harm to many unsuspecting and undeserving people.

It seems to be a growing trend in business to give customers less while charging them more. This isn’t simply a result of inflation but rather an intrinsic part of the corporate mindset to appease the shareholders in the name of profit and not for the purpose of good business practices and principles.

Affordable housing isn’t just an issue in the larger metropolitan cities on this planet; it has reached the level of a global crisis in the developed world. Likewise, healthcare for many, at least in the US, consumes a greater percentage of the family’s income than actual food does.

Why is this happening at this point in time? Is it some unforeseen phenomenon or unexplainable event?

I believe the reason for this is precisely because providing goods or services at a fair and decent price is no longer the business plan. Instead, the trend in commerce is now turning every possible occasion into outlandish opportunities for profit while deeming integrity more of a liability than an asset.

Why can’t commerce be more centered around integrity? Why can’t products be produced and sold at a fair but profitable margin? There have been a barrage of posts alluding to increasing customer service, creating a more productive work environment, and treating employees with courtesy and higher regard. But the corporate mentality seems to be leaning toward the welfare of the shareholders rather than those actually producing what the company sells. Business models are more focused on destroying competition through nefarious means – stifling competition, immorally fixing prices, and having absolutely no concern for the destruction left in their wake.

It’s time we value business leaders for their integrity and not for their ruthless potential for opportunism. Leaders in all sectors of business need to stand out with sincerity, honesty, and integrity; outstanding behavior is what ought to be commended and extolled. Conduct which ascribes values of trustworthiness and fairness should be the ones which get the acclaim and actions clearly displaying that revenue generation is the end which justifies the means, ought to be shunned and discredited.

It’s also no less important for those among the ranks to pursue these same ideals. It will take a concerted effort and although mistakes will happen, we learn from those opportunities and inspire others to do the same.

It’s nearly impossible to live in a world without business and it’s also vital to make a profit. But it’s not impossible to intertwine integrity in a company’s business plan. If not being an opportunist and not taking advantage of others for the purpose of generating maximum profits makes one a bad businessperson, then by all means, I want to be known as “Bad for Business”.

My thanks to Chris Charles of Unsplash for the beautiful picture. I look forward to your comments.

Thoughts of value

Photo by SK Yeong on Unsplash

“Integrity can involve choices which alter our entire lives.”

A discussion about integrity frequently includes a few words regarding being right or wrong. Last week’s article triggered comments from some who lost lifelong friendships over having their personal integrity questioned. When these situations occur, it can be a difficult time for either person, wondering if someone whom you’ve cherished for years may now only exist in your memories.

Rarely is it something we plan for or even expect. Nonetheless, maintaining one’s integrity may compel us to make these kinds of difficult choices.

There are countless reasons why friendships end in this way but the question we should ask ourselves is: “What were my intentions”? Was I flaunting my moral proclivity while criticizing my friend’s (or the other way around)? Did I ridicule the other person and listen only to find the absurdity in his or her argument? Often one or both sides feel their opinion only is right and any consideration of opposing ideas is a complete waste of time. This is a recipe for disaster and nothing can be done to remedy the situation or the relationship.

It’s ironic that the consideration of right versus wrong is the divisive factor in terminating any friendship. But determining what is right and what is wrong is not as black and white as we think it ought to be. The world would definitely be a much less complicated place if there were a list we could refer to when confronted with difficult choices. Yes, it would be less complicated but also a lot more restrictive as well.

Our diversity and differences enhance the unexpected episodes in life and while some are frustrating, many can be seen as opportunities for growth and development. Growth is constantly happening around us and we can do our best to influence that growth to our advancement or let life happen and thus dictate it for us.

Continually scrutinizing our own integrity is the best way to preserve and magnify it. Pointing out where it lacks in others may indicate a weakness or be a sign of doubt about our own. While it may compel us to do what we believe is right, it does not demand that we compel everyone else to do the same.

Integrity is not an easy subject to corral since so many of us have different values. While there are some basic principles upon which we can all agree, certain topics, and especially those of a political or religious nature, have totally opposite opinions; even though both sides use the exact same texts to rationalize and state arguments with entirely contrary outcomes.

But one thing which is hard to argue, is how much does our integrity negatively impact the lives of others. It is never an excuse to dupe someone for your benefit nor to usurp control over them. More importantly, it’s something that needs more proof than someone simply declaring you possess it.

Integrity complements other principles like honesty, sincerity, and compassion. I believe that these values all help raise a person’s awareness which ultimately motivates one to become mindful of the world around us. It compels us to encourage these traits in others and inspire them to do the same. For this reason alone, it behooves us all to continually examine our own ideals and principles to make the world a better place now and for the future.

My thanks to S.K Yeong for the beautiful photograph and I look forward to your comments.

Truthfully speaking

Photo by Peter Lewis on Unsplash

“Choosing to have integrity may cost us all that we have.”

Truthfulness, honesty, integrity, and other words which speak to upright living, are ones which ought to be encouraged for every human to possess. In last week’s article, the importance of integrity, being something for which we should continually strive, was the focus. The other point, and certainly no less compelling, was that while it seemingly appears to be disintegrating just about everywhere we look, endeavoring to maintain and cultivate our own was more imperative than denoting where it lacks in others. Truthfully speaking, there are complex and multifaceted issues when trying to define the true meaning of integrity.

The dictionary uses terms such as “having strong moral principles” and “moral uprightness,” and the moment the word “moral” is introduced into the conversation, there is no way to continue without raising red flags or opening the proverbial can of worms. My intentions are never to be construed as a commentary on what is right or wrong, or even moral or immoral. I have no desire to induce, encourage, or even prove that my perspective ought to be anyone’s sole criteria.

Nevertheless, there are some acts which uncategorically signify the nature of true integrity.

When a person puts his or her own well being at risk for the sake of others’ rights and dignity, that is an act of living on moral principle. When person’s fortune or reputation is jeopardized or sacrificed for the virtue and respect of another human, is there a higher bar to meet?

Two subjects which are always controversial are religion and politics; both of which have histories of demonizing and vilifying their opponents. However, when others stand up against their own religion in defense of what is perceived as a moral flaw in spite of the inevitable consequences, that takes courage as well as integrity. Going against the partisan ideals of your political cohorts in an effort not to trample the oppressed and downtrodden – knowing their future reputation is at stake – this takes a sense of fairness along with integrity. What both of these examples share is a humanitarian principle and concern for the welfare and good of someone else.

On rare occasions, I’ve been accused of impropriety merely for trying to help others. It’s disheartening. I often wish there were another opportunity to explain and make my intentions known but none have ever occurred. I cannot change what happened but I can learn from those moments to minimize them from occurring in future situations.

I know in my own heart what my true intentions are. My purpose for being on this planet will not be deterred by anyone’s accusations or actions. And, if during the course of my journey everything is taken from me, I’ll begin anew with the same optimism and enthusiasm which I share today.

It would not be fair to define my above statement as one of integrity since I have not found myself back at square one, and truthfully speaking, hope I never do. However, I am willing to take that risk daily if that’s what’s needed to help others.

Perhaps you or someone you know have lost everything because of choosing to have integrity. While I would not wish that on anyone – especially in the defense of others – ask yourself, would you make that choice? I’m not sure if there is a more sincere way of showing it.

My thanks to Peter Lewis on Unsplash for the wonderful photograph and I look forward to your comments.

An integral part

“It is often the unseen acts which have the power to influence far beyond our understanding.”

In the continual quest for self-growth, there are often roadblocks hindering us during its pursuit. Perhaps many of those obstructions, and more than we’d care to admit, stem from our own lack of determination, resolve, and drive. Yet, when we do muster up the strength to use that time for personal development, we’re left with a feeling of accomplishment and rarely bemoan the moments we spend doing it.

There is, however, one key ingredient which ought to encompass every single aspect of our life as well as each moment of our journey, and that is none other than integrity.

We value integrity and admire those in whom we perceive it. The word is frequently expressed yet its abundant use rarely wears itself out; perhaps because we want it to reflect in everyone and especially in those whom we’ve placed our trust. Unfortunately – and mainly in today’s political climate – we’ve reached a point where integrity is not an offensive weapon but rather the opponents’ target at which we fiercely and frequently fire the flaming arrows of contempt.

That is not how integrity is supposed to work. It is not a measuring stick to illuminate others on how far short they’ve fallen; it is a candle which we nourish, fuel, and cultivate into a beacon for all to witness. Integrity is not an award we win but more of an integral part of our being. It’s vital we continually achieve but also important that others are aware of it. For what good is a candle if others cannot take note of its glow?

One of the healthiest steps we can take in maintaining integrity is regularly questioning and reviewing our own. Were there small corners cut or a blind eye turned because of some convenience or quick gain? One of the best ways of evaluating personal integrity is asking yourself if you’d perform the same action when no one is looking.

Over the millennia, humans have advanced in phenomenal ways. We live longer and with more conveniences. Our access to basics such as food, water, and sanitation have improved. However, the one trait which seems to have eluded advancement is personal integrity. While integrity appears to be lacking in so many areas in today’s world, the answer is not to sit back and point the finger at those who desperately lack it.

Let us now choose integrity for two reasons: it most certainly is the right thing to do and by doing so, we inspire others to grow and maintain theirs as well.

One of the enemies of personal integrity as I see it, is that some are weary of doing the right thing and being mocked or judged for not being opportunists. Others around them seem to have it easier and possibly even flourish because they choose to lower their bar for some gain. My fear is this kind of cynicism is polluting the desire for these shattered souls to continue in its upright path.

What if there was an individual who was currently struggling to maintain integrity and could only witness one other person maintain that effort? By seeing that endeavor, it may influence or inspire that person to once again reclaim the desire for personal integrity – which could in turn, influence far more than we could ever imagine? What if that one person providing that influence were you?

Integrity is often a task with seemingly no tangible reward, but what it does offer is a prize no amount of money could ever purchase. The good news, also, is that it’s never too late to add integrity to your journey.

My thanks to Lizel Snyman De Gouveia on Unsplash for the beautiful photo and I look forward to your comments.

Grammatically Thinking

Photo by Rahul Gupta on Unsplash

“Helping others should never center around how they perceive you.”

There are many factors which can shape, broaden, or significantly influence
our own personal development. Looking at a few of my past articles, however,
may give the distinct impression that individual growth is often predicated on
uncovering errors, mistakes, or other issues which may appear to impair our own self-confidence. That is never my intention. Perhaps I’ve been focusing on these kinds of events because they have provided the greatest impact in my own life.

Self-confidence is an important factor for increasing personal growth. However,
understanding the difference between self-assuredness and arrogance sometimes
lies in a murky place. The inclination to be correct and factual is important
and not exclusively in the area of self-growth. But is it possible to be both
right and wrong in the very same moment?

I’ve had a longstanding fascination with words and their usage. It began with writing simple poems in elementary school. While in junior high, diagraming sentences was a favorite class exercise. In high school, I took 3 years of Latin – simply because I enjoyed the challenge. One of my fondest memories with my father was when we spent an hour looking up words in the dictionary and discovering their origins. Although I never grew to the level of a copyeditor, I periodically would refer to myself as a “grammar snob”.

There was an important lesson which someone very dear to me pointed out. At times I would also deem myself the “grammar police” and actually corrected people who used improper grammar. It was not a constant activity and I truthfully can’t tell you what prompted that reaction; however, when it was suggested to me this was an arrogant response, I had no choice but to sincerely deliberate her words.

My first reaction was to justify why it was correct. “Don’t people want to know when they are speaking incorrectly?” I reasoned poorly. It did not take long to realize that the underlying reason for this action was more accurately needing to be seen as intelligent. Being “right” was not for their benefit and how would something so smug be perceived as smart? Perhaps were I able to read their minds, I would have seen the word smart being replaced with the word “smarmy.”

I could argue ad nauseum that a double negative is incorrect. When a person says, “I don’t know nothing” what the are really saying is “There’s nothing I don’t know.” However, being right in this instance doesn’t – and didn’t – matter. The intention was not centered around helping others and there was no doubt in my mind that I knew precisely what they meant.

Communication is important. Understanding what others are conveying is the key. There are times when proper grammar and usage are vital but those are mainly in legal and technical realms. Everyday conversations don’t require such scrutiny. This one weakness, which was a once-perceived strength, has made a huge difference in my communication with others. It transformed the listening experience and genuinely provided a more engaging as well as caring exchange. After all, it’s next to impossible to help others when the concern is centered on yourself.

My thanks to Rahul Gupta on Unsplash for the beautiful picture and I look forward to your comments. I’d also like to again thank Anuj Agarwal and Feedspot for listing me on his top 50 inspirational posts https://blog.feedspo .com/inspirational_blogs/. I’m listed there under my WordPress site:: https://globalcreativeempowermentgroup.wordpress.com/