I imagine that you’re struggling to find the link between those three apparently random things so I’m going to let you out of your misery straight away and tell you that the link is armour, however you’ll have to read to the end to see how they all feature.
What do I mean by armour? I mean the way you hide behind a mask or by pretending so that you keep your childlessness and other parts of yourself hidden so that the real you isn’t seen.
I’ll explain what armour I’ve worm in the past, how I took it off and the impact it has had on me. And we’ll end with a rainbow.
First the cloak
I’m a big fan of Harry Potter and I’ve worn an invisibility cloak many times when I wanted to stay small and hide. Thinking back, I’ve been quiet and tried to stay unnoticeable in many social situations (and for those who know me now yes I know it’s hard to believe).
At work I carried a shield (metaphorically, not literally), as I wanted colleagues to think that I didn’t like children. Generally this worked well as I was never asked to look at photos and had a great excuse for not joining in conversations and even to walk away. It was certainly better than torturing myself by being forced to admire baby photos or commiserate with someone whose child was ill.
It was hard work though because I was pretending to be someone else and I wasn’t being true to me.
I was even like this with some friends with children, especially when we were going through treatment. It was easier for them to assume we didn’t want children than to explain everything. And that was Ok at the time.
Now the sprained ankle
When I was at school I damaged my ankle and got into the habit of wearing an ankle support. It felt great and gave me the confidence to play netball and hockey but my ankle stayed weak and the more I wore the support, the less I wanted to take it off. All our armour is like this isn’t it? Great when we want protection from injury but when we keep wearing it, we get used to it and what’s inside gets weaker.
If you’ve read my other blogs, you’ll know that I find Dr Brené Brown’s work inspirational. She talks about how we put on armour as we grow up by shutting down parts of ourselves, those parts that hurt. Maybe we were teased or ridiculed as a teenager for a particular hobby or for liking a specific band so we pretended not to like them anymore. This has continued all our lives, we shut down and armoured up because it was safe, safe but it made us miserable.
My betting is that you’ve got a few layers of armour that you’ve put on over the years. For me childlessness was the biggest and last layer of armour I put on, and there were other smaller layers underneath.
Here’s a bit of tough love (you can skip this para if you want)
And to quote from Dr Brown’s Wholehearted: Adventures in Growing Up, Falling Apart and Finding Joy, Copyright © 2009
‘It’s time. All of this pretending and performing – these coping mechanisms that you’ve developed to protect yourself from feeling inadequate and getting hurt – has to go. Your armor is preventing you from growing into your gifts.
I understand that you needed these protections when you were small. I understand that you believed your armor could help you secure all of the things you needed to feel worthy and lovable, but you’re still searching and you’re more lost than ever.
Time is growing short. There are unexplored adventures ahead of you. You can’t live the rest of your life worried about what other people think. The time has come to let go of who you think you’re supposed to be and embrace who you are’
I told you it was tough, sorry.
How to take off the armour
She’s right though, don’t you think? Time is getting shorter and I hope that we do all have unexplored adventures ahead. And for me, life’s so much harder when I’m carrying heavy armour.
Taking off your armour may not be easy, I won’t deny it. I’m not suggesting that you throw it off all at once with a flourish, what worked for me was taking it off a layer at a time (you could even use my Small Steps to Healing), like peeling back many layers of wrapping paper to discover a beautiful present inside.
I realise that this may seem daunting, so start small and start with someone who you trust. You will have a few people in your life who you can trust, who will support you and be there with you. So start by recognising these people, choose one and share something simple, maybe there’s something you’ve hidden for a while, perhaps a hobby that you haven’t mentioned. Or maybe you have a really close friend who you haven’t told about your childlessness. And when you’ve done this, you will be surprised at how much better you feel.
I’ve been peeling off my layers of armour for a while now and for the first time in many years I feel authentic, that I’m being true to me. Not perfectly and not every day, but more often than not.
And you know what; the best part of this is the unexpected freedom. I no longer have the pressure of hiding under a cloak or brandishing a shield when things get tricky. I want to live the second half of my life in an authentic, imperfect way. I’m getting better at it and it’s not always easy, but it’s better than protecting myself with armour.
And to end with a rainbow.
This term at Rock Choir we’ll be learning ‘True Colours’ and some of the words just seem to fit this post perfectly, so much so that it might become my theme song (if I can listen to it without getting emotional that is). Here’s an extract from the lyrics, courtesy of Rock Choir;
You with the sad eyes – don’t be discouraged though I realise…
it’s hard to take courage in a world full of people you can lose sight of it
And the darkness inside you makes you feel so small.
And I see your true colours shining through
I see your true colours and that’s why I love you
So don’t be afraid to let them show your
True colours…..true colours…..
are beautiful ….. like a rain-bow……
The training and coaching I’ve had has brought out my true colours (and I’m still a work in progress) and I firmly believe that part of my role working with women is to bring out theirs and, as the song says ‘they are beautiful, like a rainbow’.
Yes they are
If you’re ready to take off your armour I’d love to help you. If you’re not quite ready yet or you don’t think I can, that’s Ok, but please, please seek out help. The world needs your rainbow.
As ever, if this is helpful (or not) please let me know by leaving a comment or emailing me.
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And if you’d like to listen to a beautiful rendition of True Colours, check this out.