“I’m too scared to come and talk to you, you frighten me,” he said.
I was 30 years old, the manager of a large catering operation in the city. He was a 40 something lawyer that wanted to book an event. His sentence totally stopped me in my tracks. I am not scary; I’m 160cm tall for a start! But I knew deep down what he said was true.
It made me take a long hard look at myself.
I’d been successful in my corporate career from an early age. Managing large teams of people, dealing with stressful situations, tight budgets, demanding customers and unsupportive senior management. I couldn’t give any more, my job had taken over my life and I really didn’t like how it felt.
I was also bitterly unhappy in a relationship with a guy, who cheated, lied, and couldn’t even be bothered to come to my 30th birthday after being together for 2 years. But I allowed him to treat me like this, I never spoke up or expressed my feelings or self-value, I just put up with it, kept quiet and pretended I didn’t care. My brain logic told me that if I pretended nothing could hurt me then it couldn’t. If I acted unapproachable I never had to worry about showing my true feelings.
I came to realise that I had cultivated a hard-nosed, falsely confident and intimidating shell. I knew why, because everything in my job made me feel uncomfortable, unfulfilled, false and materialistic. I was putting up with being treated badly in my love life. I was so far removed from my soul purpose and who I felt inside. I couldn’t voice how I felt, as I didn’t really understand it yet, so I built and hid behind an energetic wall of steel instead.
I thought people would think I was weak if I showed the stress and unease I felt.
I had a job to do, and I had a reputation to upkeep.
I couldn’t even tell close friends and family how bad I felt, as I didn’t want to loose face or show that I felt I was failing at my life.
I was so concerned about what people thought about me, it was debilitating and feeding my fear.
I had become the expert at raising my barriers quickly, in friendships, relationships and generally any situation I felt vulnerable.
No one can ever hurt me now. Or so I thought.
But I was hurting, really bad; I was cutting myself off from receiving love, true authentic relationships with work colleagues, friends and potential love partners.
I was deeply unhappy, felt very unconnected and alone.
I’ve come to learn over the years, this is a very normal human behaviour.The ‘I’m going to hurt you before you can hurt me’ attitude is a pretty common protective mechanism in today’s society, and so is raising the barriers to our true selves.
Whilst it was shocking and uncomfortable, to have this man raise a mirror to my energetic behaviour, I’m so grateful for him highlighting it to me when he did.
He gave me the push I needed to start making the changes I needed in my relationships. Although it would be many more years before I did release the walls once and for all.
Like attracts like. When you put your walls up, so do the people around you. They will feel the resistance and not be able to engage with you fully.
Only when we show our true selves, vulnerably, honestly and with openness can we let people connect with us authentically.
And what really is the worst that can happen by speaking your true feelings. The fear is always worse than the reality. If someone can’t accept your true feelings without judgement or criticism do you really want them in your life anyway? By holding yourself back, you deny your true self.
Putting up barriers may protect us yes, but it also keeps others from touching your soul and allowing you to be truly happy.
I encourage you to be brave, be you, share your openness and open your heart to vulnerability then begin to watch the world around you open up to you in beautiful ways.