Masks of Anxiety Exercise

By Greg Fall

Masks of Anxiety Exercise

Introduction: While many of us develop a professional persona to help cope with workplace, school, or job seeking stresses, persistent anxiety can cause us to create a more permanent mask over a long period of time. Shadow cultures may herd us into adopting narrowly defined, synthetic, “acceptable” behaviors so that we can “fit in.” The masks or “armor” we put on each day for work or school or job search project a different version of us to the outside world. They may act as barriers to sharing our authentic, inner selves and genuinely engaging in relationships with others around us. They can become a heavy load to bear. If we wear our masks for years, we may even start to define our true, inner self in terms of our outward projection, therefore losing the ability to access our own authentic, compassionate core or self. We are not born with masks. We choose to create them. And we can choose to take them off. We can choose to access the real power and unique essence that resides in each of us at our compassionate core.


Step I: Say: “I’m not going to hide my anxiety anymore. I’m going to NAME my anxiety so I can deal with it.” What is your anxiety at the root of your mask? Some common anxieties are:

  • Starting a new job or school after having been “out of school” for years.

  • Communicating with supervisors or teachers or interviewers.

  • Freezing when you have something to say.

  • Not being liked.

  • Dealing with conflict.

  • Being misunderstood, ignored, criticized, or judged.

  • Sharing in a group.

  • Not knowing the correct answer.

  • Being reprimanded, fired, or failing a class.

  • Making a fool of yourself.

  • Experiencing the unknown.

  • Hurting someone's feelings.


Step II: Say: “I will remove my mask and deal with my fear.” Some actions you can take:

  • Create an image or symbol relating to your mask of fear.

  • Share your fear with another person or group.

  • Participate in a discussion about fears.

  • Ask for others’ compassion about your fear or help in dealing with your fear.

  • Design a plan for dealing with your fear.

  • Examine ways in which fear creates a barrier to your success.

  • Listen to others as they share their fears.

  • Identify the cultural elements which cause your fear.

  • Show genuine empathy and support for others as they share and deal with their fears.

  • Create ways to use your fear to help motivate you.


Step III: What is your fear and how are you going to address it? Discuss with a friend and set some goals for becoming more authentic, accessing your powerful, compassionate core.

Greg Fall is the President of Career Choices Consulting and concurrently serves as CMA/Career Management Associates head of coaching, leadership development, and career transition services through both individual and group learning processes. Greg holds an AB Degree from Bowdoin College, a Masters in Adult and Higher Education from the University of Southern Maine, and completed 32 credits at the University of Maine School of Law. His forthcoming book, Get Hired, Stay Hired, is due out in Spring 2011. He can be reached at gregfall@yahoo.com


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