Growing up on a small island brought delights and dilemmas as I sought to find my individuality amongst a collective society. As a child, I was eager to please and conform to the expectations that my parents, family, teachers, and others that knew “You are a Simmonds” had of me. Taught that there was a time and place for everything, my village required me, either consciously or unconsciously, to show up based on the venue, norms, and culture that was established. For example, I had uniforms for school, dance clothes for dance, “going out“ clothes for Saturdays, church clothes for Sundays, and home clothes for home, etc. A time, place, outfit, expectations, and behavioral norms for how I showed up and interacted with others in each situation. And if I stepped out of line (which was not often because I was a “good girl”….LOL!) my village of extended aunties, uncles, and community members just had to give me “the look” and that was enough to get me to conform. Honestly, I thrived in the environment that offered structure, clear guidelines, and cultural norms in a loving, yet stern way. I really did not give much thought to it, as that was just the way children of my time on the beautiful island of St. Croix, USVI were raised. And frankly, the clothing, code-switching, and fulfillment of other’s expectations served me well as long as I did what was expected and remained in that environment.
However, when I moved to Minnesota as an adult, the Island identity that was created became fractured and broken. I was now in a new environment where no one knew me and I found myself questioning, “How do I want to show up?” This created both a void and an opportunity. The absence of other’s expectations meant that I had to do some soul searching and self-exploration to determine which of the masks that I wore were really me. Reverting to what is known and comfortable, I continued to present myself at work, at my daughter’s school, and other arenas much like I had on the island, but with the constant nagging whisper of who I really wanted to be. Five months after moving, I lost my job. The mask of the successful Executive, which was my primary persona of the “Classy Professional” was removed, leaving me raw, uncovered, unrecognizable, and feeling exposed. The blessing in disguise was the 11 months in job transition which provided the fertile soil to nurture a more awakened, authentic version of me.
Today, I still struggle between the tendency to wear masks required to fulfill other’s expectations and the ones that I choose to wear because they are more authentically me. But it is liberating not having an arsenal of masks to wear depending on the person, place, or expectations. I am choosing to show up as the more authentic version of me.
So, I ask you to ponder, "What masks are you wearing?"
I invite you to join me for "The Masks She Wears" 4-week experience to explore the masks we consciously and unconsciously adorn to navigate our lives.
For more information on 'The Mask She Wears' Workshop, CLICK HERE.
For more information on The G-Spot: Masks & Mojitos Edition: CLICK HERE.