Your Armor is only as big as your Heart

Jan 04, 2024

In a world that often celebrates resilience as an unyielding suit of armor, we forget that true strength lies not in the thickness of the shield but in the size of the heart. In fact, the extent to which we put our defenses in front of who we are is reflective of the size of the pearl it is designed to protect. 

We are conditioned to believe that strength is synonymous with an impenetrable exterior—a stoic facade that shields us from the slings and arrows of life. However, the truth is, our armor is only as effective as our willingness to let it crack open, revealing the beating heart within. There is risk in opening ourselves up, and those who have experienced trauma and betrayal in all its' forms are highly attuned to heartbreak potential. The illusion of impenetrability is an effective precautionary stance. 

It also separates us from others. It also separates us from ourselves. 

Sometimes the product is a sense of insatiable emptiness. 

Emotional defenses take on a variety of forms, each with their own intention. Here are some examples:

  • Intellectualization: separates us from emotion
  • Aggression: proactively keeps threats at bay
  • Stoicism: portrays impenetrable strength thereby keeping others at an arm's length
  • Perfectionism: a self-inflicted attempt at proving we are good enough 
  • Manipulation: an effort to get unmet needs met when we feel as though we cannot ask

There are plenty more examples of ways in which we might protect ourselves. And, the more defenses we have to employ, the more likely it is that we have had to employ them in the past. The ways in which we protect ourselves are typically directly reflective of how we had to do so historically.  

And, I argue that the extent to which we experience compassion, empathy, pain, joy, or any other emotion exacerbates our need for protection. 

So now what? 

We can remind ourselves of a few things:

Vulnerability is not a weakness. It takes courage to express authentically. When we open our hearts to the world, we invite connection, empathy, and understanding. It's through vulnerability that we discover our shared humanity and build bridges that transcend the barriers of superficial strength.

Resilience and authenticity are interconnected. True resilience is not about deflecting every blow that life throws at us. It's about bouncing back from adversity with a heart that remains open, compassionate, and unbroken. The most robust armor is not an impenetrable fortress but a heart that can weather storms and emerge stronger, wiser, and more compassionate.

When we allow ourselves to be vulnerable, we create spaces for genuine connections to flourish. These connections, built on authenticity and openness, become our greatest source of strength. It is in shared experiences and mutual understanding that we find support, encouragement, and a shared journey through the highs and lows of life.

Embracing vulnerability not only in times of hardship but also in moments of joy and connection. It's about allowing ourselves to be fully present, to love and be loved without reservations, and to navigate the complexities of life with an open and compassionate heart.

And, sometimes laying down our shield is not appropriate. Sometimes we are legitimately at risk and sharing our true selves with an unsafe person is not worth the price. The balance lies in our ability to recognize who in our lives will embrace what we have to offer while continuing to walk past those who don't. 

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