In this time of Halloween, even as squirrely as this year is, we all get to pretend a bit. Maybe we are powerful villains or noble heroes. Maybe we’re noted scientists or mythical creatures. This drive to pretend is alluring. Often when we are pretending to be something we aren’t, we find the courage to do things we wouldn’t normally do.
While there’s no harm in playing pretend for Halloween, there is harm in hiding behind emotional armor in real life. We pick up this armor when we are hurt and are worried about being hurt again. Sometimes it means avoiding certain situations. Sometimes it means avoiding talking about certain subjects. Sometimes it means pretending we enjoy an activity that we really don’t. We can also pick up this armor when we are trying to live up to someone else’s far-flung expectations instead of living our own truth.
Wearing this armor prevents you from getting to know your true self and acts as a shield that separates you from being able to open up to the world in an authentic way. Those with the heaviest armor tend to lash out with harmful defense mechanisms such as isolating themselves, being in denial, acting childish, and blaming thoughts and feelings on other people.
Try this: Dropping emotional armor is a process that involves reconnecting to your true self. You must know who you are, what you like, and be okay with not everyone agreeing with your choices. Once you find this anchor, it’s time to search out times when you retreat into a defense mechanism. Try to figure out what you are trying to hide from and if it makes any sense to not be authentic in the situation. Also, find the people who you feel most comfortable being your authentic self around and make a point to spend more time with them.
Storytime: I used to really struggle with trying to be something I was not. It seemed that no matter what I did, I was always the square peg that needed to be crammed into the round hole. There were parts of me that simply refused to fit nicely into the groups I felt I needed to be a part of. Not only did this cause an immense amount of sadness and despair as I kept working to fit in, but it also prevented me from finding people who shared the same interests that I did. I wasted years and years thinking that with enough time I’d finally fit in. The sad thing about living a lie is that no amount of time will make it true. When I finally decided to explore writing groups, it was like coming home. My fellow writers not only shared many of my quirks, but they also understood my frustrations and together we were eager to see each other succeed. Psst, if you are a writer in Utah, be sure to check out the League of Utah Writers.