I spent a great deal of my life protecting myself, planning ahead, taking the safe route, and feeling that I was doing the right thing. But what if I wasn’t? Although I was taking a safe route, the safer I played it, the more limited my world felt. Anyone who has studied Brene’ Brown’s books understands that this is the way we protect ourselves from being vulnerable. I was great at protecting my heart, but it brought me no joy. My ability to reach out to others and connect heart-to-heart was buried under all those layers of protection and fear, making it rather inaccessible.
Fast forward to now. I have released much of the protective wrapping and armor that once insulated me from the scary world. I released many of the defensive activities that I used to be sure that I wasn’t hurt. Of course, those activities were also good at insulating me from professional relationships, friendships, and understanding others. It made it hard to say “I love you” to all but my closest family members. I would look for reasons to cut off friendships before they dropped me or cut me off. To protect myself from failure, I stopped taking chances.
At the same time, I was a bit mystified over the fact that my emotional repertoire seemed a bit limited. I wondered if there was ever a way to experience joy in this lifetime. Frankly, I had given up. My life was pleasant, and that was enough. I rationalized that I wasn’t particularly unhappy. Therefore, I must be happy. Almost makes sense, doesn’t it? (Ok. Not really.)
Somewhere in there, I found the courage to loosen the emotional armoring. I pushed away from feeling unfulfilled so that I could pursue activities that I enjoyed. I found my heart again. It wasn’t a short or simple process, and there were many steps along the way, but it feels good to have a heart-to-heart conversation and to have the courage to care. I had to acknowledge that I was strong enough to handle any hurt that came my way. And I have found all those missing emotions out there – including all the good ones that had been so elusive. Am I happy non-stop? No, but it is a far greater segment of my time than it used to be. At least the anger is mostly gone.
If you wish to let your heart be know – to you and others – a little self-compassion can go a long way. It frees you to have compassion with others, too. Simple, but not easy. But when your heart is know, you can be more authentic in the world. I’m still working on it, but I can feel the progress.
If you find yourself emotionally protective and afraid to put yourself out there, know that this can change. Do you have the courage? Can you find your way? If you’re on this path, either just beginning, finishing, or somewhere in between, I’d love to hear about your journey in the comments below. We could all use a little help, don’t you think? Let your heart be known – to yourself and others.