Sunday, October 18, 2009

Unmasking the Charlatan – Baby Steps to Authenticity

“The Phantom [of the Opera] knows he is wearing a mask, the audience know he is wearing a mask, and the Phantom knows that they know. But the Phantom is happier to project a superficial image than an authentic image of reality.”[1] (Italics added for emphasis.)

-Peter Fuda, leadership transformation consultant.

It’s interesting that in gay and lesbian circles the term ‘coming out’ has relevance to the decision of the person to reveal their sexual preference and status—come what may; an act of choice in “unmasking” themselves toward freedom—certainly with costs—but freedom (delicious freedom) all the same.

They wish to be known for who they see themselves as. It’s authenticity and congruence. The person inside meets the person on the outside and cognitive dissonance is reduced.

We have the very same challenge, and it’s often just as frightening.

The Peter Fuda quote above informs us of ourselves. Unmasking ourselves—the real-life Phantoms in the scenes of the stories that are our lives—that is our chief life aim.

It’s both the immediate aim and it’s also one requiring constant maintenance. Yet, we’re often busy masquerading in an insane façade that’s altogether more difficult and tiresome to maintain. It’s hard work being two or three different people.

If we’re to establish any semblance of lasting peace and worthy living this side of the eternal Locked Door, being authentic and congruent must be the key.

It’s the same for a person in a leadership capacity; a CEO, a manager, a father, mother or grandparent. People in these positions, where others depend on them for direction and guidance, must have first established personal congruence if they’re to be truly successful, living without undue distress.

Being able to be comfortable with our weaknesses, and be honest with ourselves, is actually a strength—a strength, in fact, that promotes bi-lateral trust and relational enhancement toward higher performance and collective, interpersonal freedom.

Each of us has faced the ‘charlatan challenge,’ fully masked and personally repugnant. What remains of the challenge? Is it to be conquered, or has it been? Who are we really fooling in our ongoing masquerade?

WYSIWYG is something all computer nerds know something about. It stands for, “What you see is what you get.”

Becoming WYSIWYG’ed and going unmasked is part of the challenge we have in becoming more authentic people; congruent and personally-aligned.

Then, and only then, we find the world comes to us—finally things begin falling into place.

© S. J. Wickham, 2009.

[1] Peter Fuda, Leadership Transformation: Creating Alignment from the Inside-Out - White Paper (The Alignment Partnership, 2009). More information (and White Paper Available):

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