Remove the Armor to Live a Joyful and Authentic Life
Contributor

Armor, what we all wear to protect ourselves.  The shied that we have learned to put up when we were younger so that the words of others didn’t hurt so much.  It’s understandable why most of us have armor, but do we realize that it keeps us from living a fully authentic life.

Whatever our age, the armor or masks that we wear are as personalized and unique as each of our susceptibility, uneasiness, or hurt we’re trying to diminish.

 

Suspicion is a heavy armor and with its weight it impedes more than it protects. ~ Robert Burns

 

There are different types of armor or masks depending out how we react to uncomfortable situations.  These defense mechanisms we put into place to help us deal with our fears.

 

Silence

 

The first piece of armor is the silence.  If I don’t talk, no one can make fun of what I say. If I don’t speak, I won’t accidentally say the wrong thing and be embarrassed. If I don’t say anything at all, no one can tell me I’m wrong.  If I refuse to converse with you then I am withholding my love and you will be hurt.  You recognize these responses don’t you.  But the reality is, you know they don’t help the situation.  They don’t even make us feel better. 

 

Withholding honest communication only makes the situation worse, not better.  How you feel is important to share.  Your thoughts are significant even if you aren’t sure how to express them clearly.  You sharing your opinion is neither right or wrong, but it may be helpful to someone else.  By choosing to be silent, you are keeping others away from you so that authentic connections cannot be formed.

 

In human intercourse the tragedy begins, not when there is misunderstanding about words, but when silence is not understood. ~ Henry David Thoreau

 

Perfectionism

 

The second defense mechanism is perfectionism.  Now this one doesn’t seem as obvious, but it too keeps us from connecting with others as we aren’t being authentic.  It does this by putting up expectation barriers that make it difficult for others to get close to us.  People don’t like disappointing, so they may choose to avoid those who expect more then they think that can give.

 

Also, perfectionism is a reflection inward.  It is the armor that keeps us from reaching out to others, because we don’t want to appear weak by asking for help.  Perfectionists tend to be complainers because they point out all the things that are not ideal, even if no one else noticed.  Perfectionism is one of the many forms of fear.

 

At its root, perfectionism isn’t really about a deep love of being meticulous. It’s about fear. Fear of making a mistake. Fear of disappointing others. Fear of failure. Fear of success. ~Michael Law

 

Numbing

 

The third mechanism that we use as part of our armor is numbing.  An example of this is relieving our stress from work with a glass of wine, every day, even when we didn’t work.  Its our excuse for eating the whole tub of ice cream.  We can numb with food, tobacco, alcohol, or binge-watching The Walking Dead.  This is the mask of avoidance.   Not directly dealing with the issue is also not helpful. 

 

We can even use this mechanism when we are with other people, especially smoking and drinking alcohol.  These two devices are socially acceptable in a group setting so we don’t realize that we are numbing.  But if you feel that drinking or smoking makes you “cooler” or relaxes you so you feel better in a group setting then you really are just numbing your authentic self.

 

By default, most of us have taken the dare to simply survive. Exist. Get through. For the most part, we live numb to life - we've grown weary and apathetic and jaded... and wounded. ~ Ann Voskamp

 

Removing the Armor and Being Vulnerable

 

Author and researcher on vulnerability, Brené Brown, writes that the only way humans can truly connect is to embrace vulnerability.  What exactly does this mean?  It means that we need to recognize that our weaknesses are part of our authentic self.  We can’t be authentic with others unless we are honest and share all of who we are, and that includes our vulnerabilities. 

 

Although vulnerability has conventionally been seen as a weakness, and the idea of being exposed — defects, inadequacies, mistakess, and all— is, for most people, totally petrifying.

But as Brené Brown has shown through her research, that being vulnerable isn’t a liability — it’s an asset.  Being vulnerable is the ability to allow people to see that you’re not perfect, you make mistakes, and you don’t have all the answers. It’s allowing people to see that you’re human. That you’re just like them. Here are three ways to take off your armor.

 

To share your weakness is to make yourself vulnerable; to make yourself vulnerable is to show your strength. ~ Criss Jami

 

Set Boundaries

 

Personal boundaries are guidelines in how we allow people to treat us, what we find as acceptable behavior.  By putting boundaries in place, we can begin to take off the armor because we know what conduct we are willing to tolerate from others.  We empower ourselves to take appropriate action when someone violates the boundaries we have put into place. 

Personal limitations are vital in order for us to flourish and be in strong relationships.  Having them in place allows us to communicate our needs and wants plainly and concisely without fear of consequences.  It is a way for us to practice authentic self-respect.

 

Boundaries define us. They define what is me and what is not me. A boundary shows me where I end and someone else begins, leading me to a sense of ownership. ~ Henry Cloud

 

Practice Self-Care

 

Self-care is the antidote to the armor of perfectionism.  It’s going from worrying about what others will think or say to knowing that you are enough just as you are.  Self-care is taking care of ourselves.  Our mental, emotional, and physical health. Basic self-care is vital to improving mood and reducing stress

Simple acts of kindness for you, like a bubble bath, are an act of self-compassion.  Or recognizing the struggles of others shows that we all need help once in a while.  Be mindful and acknowledge any hurt feelings but don’t let them overtake your mindset.  Feel them, move past, and get to the other side where answers come.  Accepting that we, and others, are enough just as we are can help break the grip of perfectionism to be more authentic.

Self-compassion is simply giving the same kindness to ourselves that we would give to others. ~ Christopher Germer

 

Gratitude overcomes Numbing

 

One of the side effects of numbing the pain is that we also numb the joy.  No lows, but also no highs with this piece of armor.  This seems counter intuitive, but if we feel joy then it may be taken away.  So, we numb all our feelings, both good and bad. 

 

In her TEDTalk about vulnerability, Brené Brown, share that the happiest people were ones that practiced gratitude.  Thankfulness recognizes that we are living with enough, permitting us to accept the simple joys that surrounds us.

 

The easiest way to practice appreciation is to start a gratitude journal.  All you have to do is make a short list, maybe five items each day, that you are thankful for.  Big things like not being in a car accident, to simple things like the fresh squeezed orange juice you made for your breakfast.  When you can see that your life is full of joy that depends on no one, you can release the urge to numb your feelings and be authentic. 

 

Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough. ~ Oprah Winfrey

 

Human Connections

 

Making human connections is vital for our health.  The human brain is wired to make connections with people.  It needs those connections to maintain overall health.  Reaching out to others helps people come out of depression.  The connection to others keeps our brains healthy. But in order to make real authentic connections we need to remove the masks and armor we have been wearing. 

 

Vulnerability is courageously showing our true selves, which can feel uncomfortable.  But we can push past the discomfort.  As an alternative to the armor, let’s clothe ourselves in garments that allow us to connect.  Those made of empathy, compassion, humbleness, kindness, patience and forgiveness, topped with love.  By doing so we open the door to more imagination, invention, and more authentic connections with others, which is more than worth the effort.           

 

Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. ~ Brené Brown

 

As you become more mindful of your life and become aware of the armor you wear you can begin to remove it.  If you would like to receive more informative and mindful articles right into your mailbox fill this out now.

 

Do you need support in removing your masks?  Do you want a strategy to help you take off your armor and make authentic connections?  If so please, contact me and we can put together an action plan for you to be authentically you and for you to create the vision you have for your life.  

 

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