Two years ago I made a simple promise.
A promise not only to myself, but to every single goalie out there.
"I will lift the mask. And I will help others do the same."
Sounds like a noble way to launch the #LiftTheMask movement, right?
Only one problem.
Opening up isn't easy.
In fact, I've spent so many years living behind my goalie mask that I've constructed a heavy layer of emotional armor on top of all my preexisting defense mechanisms. As a result, I've become quite proficient at not sharing who I really am. It's like I've developed such a deep and intimate understanding of myself through the goaltending journey that I've mastered the deceptive art of emotional invisibility.
So don't worry if you find it difficult to lift the mask and talk about your struggles. It's tough for me, too. And I think that's totally normal for a lot of goalies.
I may never understand exactly what another goalie is going through, but whatever battles they are fighting, I can at least understand what it means to be struggling. Or what it means to feel alone. Or to be disappointed in oneself. Or to harvest dark thoughts and always imagine the worst. To have zero confidence. To feel like the entire world is against you.
Because of this, I honestly believe that Empathy is one of the most important skills a goalie can have. For better or worse, I think we develop this skill naturally due to the lack of empathy we see in others. Or maybe it's developed out of sheer necessity. Regardless, our ability to understand others often stems from knowing just how important it is to our health.
Goalies are often treated like a lost tribe speaking a lost language, which is a big reason why the whole "goalies are weird" stigma is somehow still relevant in 2020. We're seen dancing to the beat of our own drums by those who simply can't hear the music.
That is why Empathy is so powerful. It's not about what it does for us, but how it heightens the awareness of those around us. Empathy benefits all parties involved, and since all humans are connected, we can gain strength and courage by listening to others.
Lift The Mask was born out of a simple promise two years ago for that exact purpose. Every goalie deserves a chance to be heard and a chance to get help. So whatever it is you're dealing with right now, and whatever it is you're not ready to share with the world, I hope you know that you're not alone.
In order to prove that there's always someone ready to listen, we now have an entire website and a new "Live Chat" feature dedicated to just "being there" for the goalie community. We also have plenty of stories to share about goalies overcoming past traumas and finding different ways to turn adversity into triumph.
So let's sign pledges, share performance strategies, have open discussions, and learn new things about the way the goalie's mind works. Let's use this platform to do good and to give back to the community. Let's build leaders through goaltending and knowledge through the passionate pursuit for excellence ... and for pucks!
Now that Lift The Mask does have a new home, I'm excited to see how our community grows. We have a new Facebook Group page, a strong presence on Instagram, and great support from groups like the ADAA, the CPEX at the University of Denver, the #SameHere global movement, Never Give Up radio, and tons of wonderful Ambassadors.
And with all of these partnerships we've created over the past two years, we've been able to develop some new ways of approaching the mental side of goaltending.
It starts by allowing the lines to be blurred between mental health and mental performance. By starting a conversation about performance and certain mental skills like focus or confidence, it can open the door for goalies to discuss mental health more openly. And while it's important to know the differences between the two, approaching mental health from a performance perspective first is an effective way to broach those more uncomfortable topics like a goalie's feelings, emotions, or compulsive behaviors.
Next, we shift the perspective away from the extremely negative cases of mental illness we often see in the media to the more common everyday situations where anxiety, depression, and other mental disorders are still felt in our everyday lives. We move away from the notion that mental health affects just 1-in-5 individuals by recognizing that, in these trying times, 5-in-5 individuals are dealing with something.
For this very reason, Lift The Mask was built as a safe space and a sanctuary for any goalie to vent frustrations, talk about things that are bothering you, and then move on. Because we all need someone to lean on at some point. It can't all be done alone.
So whatever type of support you need in order to take another step towards lifting the mask, we're here for it. And whatever we can do to help you get one-percent better today, let's work together to make the most of it. Every. Single. Day.
Because this is not just "another" step in your life's journey, or in mine for that matter.
This is the next step.
And it could be the one that changes everything.