Yesterday in Woman Unleashed 4, Char Tosi was talking about Warrior Energy. She had us draw a shield in 4 sections that represented: our accomplishments (top left), who we want to be (top right), what’s holding us back (bottom left), and what our strengths are (bottom right). In doing so, I experienced an “aha” moment. My shield is both my strength and my weakness.
As a child of the baby boomer generation, I think many women in my generation grew up with dual, and often conflicting, expectations: you have to be feminine enough to be desirable but masculine enough to function in corporate America; you need to feel your feelings, but don’t let them show; you need to open your heart and be vulnerable, but don’t let your guard down. Difficult to do, isn’t it?
I spent much of my 20s and 30s trying to follow these guidelines and found time and time again that they didn’t work – not at work, not in romantic relationships, not in life. They ended up being more of a recipe for failure than rules for success. Rules that left me heart sick and love hurt; feeling abandoned, betrayed; not trusting anyone – least of all myself.
But I didn’t know any better, so I kept using my shield and building up the wall around my heart. I called it self-protection – things I used to protect my heart, my Soul, myself. Yet, the higher I built up that fortress wall, the lonelier I became. The blissful silence I had once desired echoing in the rafters of my heart.
That’s why I call my shield both my strength and my weakness, and why you’ll notice I drew a mirror of my own reflection as what’s holding me back. My warrior energy has gotten me far – PhD by 25, started my own business as a coach at 37 while still holding down my full-time job, Full Professor (highest rank you can achieve in my field) by 39, over 50 peer-reviewed journal articles, numerous awards, and a handful of chapters in best-selling books. Yet, none of that made me happy. None of that made me feel successful.
”I think midlife is when the universe gently places her hands upon your shoulders, pulls you close, and whispers in your ear: I’m not screwing around. 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 of love and belonging, 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. You were born worthy of love and belonging. Courage and daring are coursing through you. You were made to live and love with your whole heart. It’s time to show up and be seen.” —Brene Brown
Yes. That’s what I was missing. As much as I had performed and accomplished, I wasn’t really showing up. No one was seeing the real me because I wouldn’t let them. Vulnerability was a weakness I was not about to put on display.
Then, when I was 39.5, I had a rude awakening where the carefully crafted façade of my life as a wife, coach, researcher, and award-winning professor started to crumble. For years it looked, on the outside, like I had it all. But on the inside, I was miserable. At 39.5 I made a decision to stop living my life by someone else’s rules. In the 6 months that followed, my life turned upside down. Many of the roles I had used to establish my identity, to define my sense of self were lost to me. I got a divorce, moved, broke my heel for the second time in a year, lost most of my friends (we had a lot of couple friends and they didn’t want to take sides) and felt adrift, truly on my own for the first time in my life.
But I knew one thing in my heart – I was doing the right thing. As hard as it was, as painful as it was, I never once questioned my decision to leave my marriage, my life as I knew it. Because for the first time in my life, I finally showed up – for myself. I learned to rely on myself. (Now, mind you, this only furthered my wall-building and shielding, but at the time it was what I needed to feel safe enough to make these changes.) Now I’ve come full circle.
It’s time: to re-examine those walls we build around our hearts, the limiting beliefs we place upon ourselves, those shields that both serve to protect us and keep us small.
It’s time to stop caring what other people think and speak your truth. It’s time to hold your shield and sword, not in front of you, but by your side – there if you need them, but not leading the way.
It’s time to trust in yourself. You got this.
And, yet, I get it. I get that you’re scared, that you don’t know if now is the right time. It is. You’re unsure of how people will react – what if you lose your support system? You won’t. And if you do, they weren’t really your support system anyway, were they? It’s time to live those adventures ahead of you. It’s time to own your worth. It’s time to live and love with your whole heart. It’s time to show up and be seen.
If you’re ready to step up, and need a little guidance and support along the way, I invite you to join the Sacred Circle – other women who are going through what you’re going through. Other women who are ready and willing to step up and do the healing they need to do; other women who are ready to be seen. This month we’re working on that first important step – trusting in yourself. Are you ready?