Brown explains that we tend to put on an “armored front” for two reasons:
- We’re not comfortable with emotions and equate vulnerability with weakness
- Traumatic experiences taught us vulnerability is dangerous
These resonated with me. As I’ve shared in previous posts, I have a fear of vulnerability, but I never really considered myself to have an “armored front.” I always considered myself pretty open with people, except when I’m not…
Here are some examples:
Vulnerability in Dating: I personally feel like I will come off as needy and desperate if I express interest in someone first. Even if I do express interest, it’s so nonchalantly that it’s not taken seriously. Then I will not continue to pursue it in the fear of coming off too strong. What I realized is that my insecurities in dating do come from traumatic experiences.
The summer before my freshman year, my sister kissed a boy that I had been crushing on. They both knew I had a crush, and he was a friend. I felt betrayed by both. I felt he had played me to get to her. I remember what my sister said when I confronted her about it: “Don’t tell mom.” And I didn’t, until years after the fact. I was completely devastated, and I had to go through it alone.
This experience (and others) has shaped my view of how to initiate new relationships: It never works out when I like someone first. If I express interest first, I still have weariness and disbelief that he can return that interest. But when a guy expresses interest first, I feel like he is upfront with his intent. It’s less intimidating to let my guard down, when he’s been vulnerable first.
Vulnerability in Expression: I am terrified of sharing my creative work, especially my writing. I would rather hunker down in my bunker than to receive criticism over something I believe or experienced. First step was putting it on the web. I have yet to share the link with family and friends, aside from my one dedicated reader (Hi, Mom!).
I have not personally received criticism, so I don’t have first-hand traumatic experience. But we see it play out all the time on the web. I’m afraid that my opinion, my belief, will cost me my job, my friends, or even cause me to receive threats. But I also know that without risk, there is no reward. One day, I will have to muster up the courage to be vulnerable and share my work, but even the “one day” scares me.
These are just two examples, but in thinking it over, I’m not as open as I thought I was.
One day I was talking with some guy friends who were teasing me about being single. I played along with it. Then one said something that hit a nerve, and it was all I could do not to let the tears fall.
If I had said, “Guys, can we not talk about this?” when they started off, I could have avoided the whole issue. But I didn’t realize how much it bothered me, until the one comment triggered hurt. Playing along was a defense mechanism all along. Because if I had to say, “Can we not talk about this?” they would know that it’s a sensitive subject. I would have had to of been vulnerable in that moment, but that little bit of courage up front could have saved me from pain down the conversation.
My point with that story is that because I was willing to poke fun at myself, I misinterpreted playing along as letting my guard down and being open. What I was really doing was trying to shield myself from them knowing how I actually feel about being single.
In analyzing my own behaviors, I realized that I wear armor more often than I originally thought. A lot of self-reflection goes into braving the wilderness. You have to be acutely aware of yourself in order to experience true belonging.