Growing up, you put up a mask portraying yourself as someone whom you wish to be but actually are not.
However, with the rhythmic onset of maturity, you start cutting holes to unmask yourself. First, the eyes. Then, the mouth. And then, piece by piece the glued mask gets ripped apart and falls out. This unmasking phase in your life begins when you start forming deeper connections with other people who ‘see’ like you and who ‘sound’ like you but still act differently than you.
With that experience, you come to the realization that your gut instinct is actually the thing that stops you from forming a bond with someone who seems fake, that is, puts up a mask.
And, through the snowball effect of meeting countless masked people, you make a conscious decision to stop partaking in this act of forming a persona that isn’t a true representation of what you think and feel at the given moment in time.
Most Startup Founders Have A Mask On
Most startup founders, including me, have a mask on which looks and feels quite the same across the board.
When we founders start a company, our identity gets mixed up with that of our company’s identity. Thus, to feel good about ourselves, we sadly need to feel good about our company.
As a result, to get instant gratification, we go on to portray our company to be something that isn’t and will probably never be. And, in doing so, our company puts on a mask. And, in doing so, we founders put on a mask.
To see this in action, ask a new founder how much their company is making in their first year of business and they’ll have a hard time stating the actual numbers.
Instead, they’ll throw out a number that feels sufficiently large to them, and then, they’ll make a mental note of that number to get their story straight the next time around when the question is again asked.
This is the mask distorting the voice of an innocent founder whose identity has been mixed up with his/her company’s identity which in turn has been crippled by the identity of a different company that it aspires to be.
How To Get Rid Of The Mask As An Entrepreneur?
The mask doesn’t do much damage externally but it does tear down the founder internally day-by-day due to the fear of getting caught in a web of lies.
“What if someone actually gets a hold of my finances?”, is a constant thought every founder has gone through. No wonder we suffer from imposter syndrome. Partly, because we are. Then, one day, when we founders are asked about our company’s finances by a potential investor, both our company and we, as founders, get unmasked in an instant.
So, to live a mentally healthy life as a founder, always go by the saying, “the financial books don’t lie“.
By the way, other points that may tempt you to put that mask on may be questions about half-assed products, employee count, physical office, etc. Be wary of that. I’m trying to work on it too.
Side note, you can shoot for the stars by being honest to everyone around you and fixing your house rather than deflecting the major issues at hand by portraying yourself to be someone you are not. If your company is a mess, it is okay.
No one has their stuff figured out. Not even the Zuckerbergs, the Cooks, or the Musks.