3 Steps to shed your armor and live an authentic life
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I’m commuting home. Finding a moment to write in those in between work and family responsibilities.
I had an intense day. I was in 7 hours of meetings and navigating some very challenging internal politics.
Normally I would feel tired and drained. I would feel heavy. Like the weight of the day was weighing me down.
Today I feel light. Not skinny or thin (my pants are tight and I broke my own rules and ate a cupcake and a cookie at the work birthday celebration), but I feel like a weight has been lifted off of my shoulders, my head, my body. My arms feel like they could help me fly.
I’ve been reading Brene Brown’s book Dare to Lead. I absolutely LOVE and admire Brené Brown, she is my favorite author and if you don’t know her work, you should immediately check out her Ted Talk on the Power of Vulnerability. Getting back to her book, Dare to Lead really thinking about this quote:
As children we found ways to protect ourselves from vulnerability, from being hurt, diminished, and disappointed. We put on armor; we used our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors as weapons; and we learned how to make ourselves scarce, even to disappear. Now as adults we realize that to live with courage, purpose, and connection – to be the person who we long to be – we must again be vulnerable. We must take off the armor, put down the weapons, show up, and let ourselves be seen.
I carry around so much armor. You would never know (or I think you would never know because I have a smile on my face and positivity in what I say), but I have built up shields of armor I carry everywhere.
Slowly I’ve been stripping them away. The past few weeks felt intense and draining. But today it feels like it’s all coming together. Today, it feels like I left my armor at home and it was surprisingly amazing.
It permeated so many layers. I saw old colleagues and had an openness I wouldn’t always bring. I walked into a meeting late and saw a colleague make a face at me. Normally I would interpret that as disappointment in me, but I detached and watched the room unfold. It was clear she was frustrated, but the more I neutrally observed, I realized it probably wasn’t about me. Because of that I didn’t carry baggage around and we later had an excellent chat that probably wouldn’t have happened if I had assumed that she was disappointed in me.
I even changed small things. For the first time in many, many years, I wore my hair down and unstyled. Normally I straighten it or put it up (even a ponytail). My once picket straight hair has gotten more wavy with every one of my 5 pregnancies, and I don’t know what to do with it. So I hide the wave, like I wear my armor. It was surprisingly liberating to let it all go.
What is your armor and how is it preventing you from joy and greatness?
We all wear armor. Sometimes I think I have multiple different sets - one for work, one for my family, one with my friends. Sometimes we have worn it so long that I think it’s hard to recognize that it isn’t part of us.
But you are more than your armor. You are stronger than the shield you wear to cover your scars and mask your true self. Armor is hard and doesn’t bend easily. You are resilient. You adapt in the face of adversity. You learn and change. You have loved and are loved. What makes you beautiful and unique is not the shield that you think protects you, but the real you underneath.
It takes courage to let that person out, especially after years of using armor to protect ourselves.
But there is something amazing about showing up, being the real you, and recognizing that not only is that enough, it is the opportunity to show people the authentic you and relate to those parts of you.
1) Live with purpose
To shed your armor you need to start getting a sense of what it would mean to live with purpose, your purpose. That means knowing the answer to the question:
IMAGINE IT’S SEVERAL YEARS FROM NOW, YOU FEEL SUCCESSFUL, HAPPY, AND BALANCED. IT’S TUESDAY MORNING. YOU WAKE UP. WHAT DOES YOUR DAY LOOK LIKE?
Once you know what you are striving for, it’s so much easier to get there.
2) Connect with others building honest and authentic relationships
It is scary and hard for everyone to shed their armor and be their authentic selves, but it gets so much easier when someone else does it first. The challenge is that so many of us are waiting for the other person to start that conversation. What if you started it? Start slowly, test the waters and see how people respond. Some people are ready to jump into being more authentic, others aren’t. That’s fine, it’s not about changing other people, but finding people you can connect with in an authentic way.
3) Live with courage
Every day we make dozens of choices and decisions, most of them are small – what will you eat for breakfast, what will you wear, how will you respond to your whining child, what will you say when someone asks you to do something at work. We also have bigger decisions – whether to switch jobs, whether to go back to work after having a baby, which house to buy, whether to move to a new city. We often opt for the comfortable instead of the courageous. But what if you made just one decision that was more courageous? What if you could transform your fear into bravery?
Can you take one step forward, one small step forward to live with purpose? To connect with others? To live with a little more courage?