WHEN TO WEAR YOUR MASK
Are you pro-mask or anti-mask? It seems to me that no one can agree these days on when, where, what kind, and what good masks do. I have very vocal friends in both pro-mask and anti-mask camps, and some days I don’t know what to believe!
Today I’m going to share some tips on when to use a mask, and when to show your face.
Spoiler: this is not the blog you’re expecting.
Yes. We’re going to talk about masks. But not the kind that protect you from potentially harmful physical illness. I’m talking about the mask you put on when you step into your work context. I’m talking about identity, vulnerability, and boundaries, and how think about yourself as a business owner.
We used to use the concept of “putting on a mask” as a way to explain someone who hides their true self. But if COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s that masks can symbolize protection and care for others.
Think of these masks/boundaries as ways to protect the most important things in your life. Controlled vulnerability is a needed practice in business. It provides a roadmap of how to be genuine, how to share real stories from an honest place, how to deeply care for your clients, customers, and colleagues without stepping over healthy boundaries and requiring you to bare your soul to strangers every day.
So here we go. Five types of masks, and when to wear them.
Pro-tip: replace the word “mask” with “boundary” (or even “hat”) and the message will be the same. You’re welcome.
1. Public Mask
Just because you share some things with your audience doesn’t mean you are obligated to share everything with your audience. It’s not disingenuous to be selective in what you put online. To the contrary, I think it adds to quality of your brand! Share true stories, share your real life, and be deeply honest and consistent with your values— but don’t feel obligated to share it all. You’re allowed to have a personal life lived away from people you don’t know.
The public vs private boundary provides a safe space for you to grow, and protects your most precious relationships. I work through new ideas in private with dear friends before I put anything online. Criticism from my husband or Mom or best friend come from a place of love. Criticism from a strange who follows me on IG is harder to hear, and usually not as constructive.
2. Teaching/Sharing Mask
This is an extension of the last point, but more focused on educational and work-related content. Because the more you give away, the more you’ll be asked to give. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been approached by a newer business owner asking for a copy of my pricing guide/contract/second shooter agreement/etc. The assumption is that because I share free information in some contexts that my business experience is free for the asking.
Let me be clear: I love helping people. That’s why this post exists! And I share a tremendous amount of free content with others. But just because I share some of my knowledge with fellow business owners doesn’t mean I’m obligated to share everything, all the time.
If you’re interested in tapping into my 12+ years of entrepreneurial experience, coaching is the best option! When it comes to my coaching clients, I hold nothing back. Everything I know is available for you! And because I’m committed to “never stop learning,” the value of our coaching relationship continues to increase.
3. Professional Mask
I think most people are aware of the need for this. There are certain ways of behaving as a professional that place client care and service above personal experiences and feelings. This is a very good thing.
For example: When I was pregnant with my first daughter, I shot a summer wedding in 95 degree heat. When we finally had a moment to sit down for dinner, we were served small cold cut sandwiches with potato chips that had gone stale from sitting out in Virginia humidity. I have a hot meal clause in my contract, and the meal didn’t comply with that. Additionally, being pregnant, I couldn’t eat the meat on the sandwich, and I’m gluten-intolerant, so I couldn’t eat the bread. That left me with stale chips for dinner. There was no planner or coordinator present, so my only options were to a) complain to the couple and distract them from enjoying their guests, or b) dig in my bag for a granola bar and get takeout on the way home.
I chose the latter, because one of my primary goals on a wedding day is to help the couple stay present and enjoy every moment.
I also chose to make a note in my files to touch base with the planner, the caterer, and the venue in the future, to communicate my dietary needs and avoid a repeat situation.
4. Bulldog Mask
Sometimes you need to fight for what you believe, fight for another person, or fight for your goals. When these moments come, it’s time to pull out the Bulldog Mask. This doesn’t mean you disrespect others, and it certainly does not give you license for unkindness or abusive language, but sometimes you need to get feisty to get things one.
This is the mask that goes on when you see injustice toward another person. This is also the mask I put on when I have a deadline and need to psych myself up to get stuff done. The reason this is a mask, though, is that once that mission is accomplished or the goal is reached, it’s time to set the mask aside and let myself rest.
5. Respect Mask
It’s possible to be kind and firm at the same, especially when discussing contracts and payment schedules. I have a handful of clients every year that push back on contract terms or business policies. But I rarely change my operating standards or contract clauses. They were written for a reason, and they serve a specific purpose— to protect both me and my client.
When I hold firm on my contract (with kindness and humility, of course), it serves to increase the respect and trust that my clients give me. Those clients often turn into my best, most loyal clients, because the respect was earned early on in the relationship!
When to take the mask off
I fully believe in the power of vulnerability to change lives. I think that a life lived with transparency and honesty as a matter of habit is a life full of deep relationships, deep joy, and deep meaning. In other words, it is a life well-lived.
At the same time, not all relationships (or social media posts) should receive the same level of transparency. There are things I share with my husband that I would never share in a client consult or post publicly online… and that’s a good thing!
Social media has blurred the lines between personal and professional in such a way that even I find myself confused about knowing what to share. If you have struggled with this as well, I highly recommend the book Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud (and follow him online!).