Take Off Your Shiny Armor

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There are some people who feel good enough inside and worthy of love and belonging most of the time.  Then there’s the rest of us. We wake to face each day with doubts.  Am I smart enough? social enough? successful enough? attractive enough? accomplished enough?  Am I good enough to have meaningful relationships with others?

When our inner voice answers “no” to one of these questions, we polish up our armor, put it on, and go out to meet the world.  We use our protection to avoid being hurt by others who seem to have enough of everything we yearn for.  Our armor can be trendy clothes, intellectual prowess, judgement of others, rigid beliefs, perfectionism, or whatever makes us feel safe from hurt.

Sadly, despite our best efforts, we can still lose our jobs, make poor financial decisions, commit a social faux pas, have health problems, or be confronted with failure, and the list goes on.  More importantly, our armor has separated us from what we need most – our loving connection with other people.

Brené Brown, author, researcher, and professor, has a compelling segment on You Tube where she discusses the power of vulnerability (taking off the armor).  Brown apologetically says “our capacity for wholeheartedness can never be greater than our willingness to be brokenhearted.”

I can relate to this idea.  I have unwittingly spent many years wearing all sorts of armor.  My fears of having my heart broken are deep seeded in childhood and adolescence.  My experience is not unique.  My armor fits so well that I have to make an intentional choice to take it off when being with patients, friends, and sometimes, family.  Interestingly, the situation where I’m most likely to go without armor is when I work with coaching clients.  The coaching relationship demands that I be wholeheartedly present as an equal partner.

Taking off your armor involves several steps.  Here are a few:

Save your armor for situations and people who aren’t safe for you.

Recognize what the armor looks like, what forms it takes.

Embrace the idea that you are good enough regardless of your abilities and your life situation.

Know that when you live with vulnerability and get hurt, it will not destroy you, and you don’t have to face it alone.

Decide if you will muster the courage to stow your armor and be vulnerable, maybe just a little at a time.

Practice removing your protective barrier with someone you trust, someone who creates safety for you. This could be a partner, friend, family member or a therapist or coach.

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The rewards: the joy, freedom and well-being that come with fully embracing life; the inner warmth of giving and receiving love and true belonging; the peace that comes with accepting yourself, just as you are.

 

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