Self-protecting is a natural human instinct. We are created with this drive for safety- and it serves a good purpose. It keeps us alive and unscathed. It’s a necessary instinct that prevents us from doing something dangerous, stupid, or thoughtless like the cliché jumping off of the proverbial bridge after a friend.
Emotional self-protection is also a thing. Some of us have become masters at keeping emotional pain at bay. You’re successfully protecting yourself from getting hurt with a variety of learned coping skills and tactics. This is often true for people who have been burned. There have been enough close calls in your life- you don’t need to keep putting yourself out there to know how this could go. You’ve learned how to take care of yourself now, and you’re okay without the risk of others coming in and turning your world upside down. You feel safe.
I get it.
When we’ve been hurt, there’s a new equation that’s introduced. What outcome is worth the risk/reward? In other words, what risks are you willing to take…
The risk is multi-faceted. You know the game. Risk vulnerability and there are two possible outcomes: beauty or pain. You’ve probably experienced some combination of both. But maybe rolling the dice just to see where it will land doesn’t feel worth it anymore. Maybe you’ve been left reeling enough times that you’ve chosen self-protection. Love, belonging, and a mutually enriching shared experience are theoretically nice thoughts but are realistically naïve ideas. A reality that leaves you feeling a little lonely and longing, but in control and unaffected by others.
But at what cost?
When we emotionally self-protect, we also miss out. When we emotionally engage, we inevitably get hurt. A juxtaposition I wish we didn’t have to face. The answer? Developing courage, resilience, and hope.
I am not here to shame you. Your self-protection exists for a reason. I do it too. And for you and me, it has served a purpose. It is our best attempt at keeping ourselves intact and with some semblance of okay-ness.
What I am here to do is suggest that there may be more.
What if there is more than being “okay” available to you? What if there is a messy and scary yet fulfilling and joyful life available to you?
I’m not saying it won’t cost you- because it will. It will cost you your safety, comfort, and ability to remain unaffected by the world. It will be painful at times, but from the valleys, you will look up and see a peak that is yours to have as well.
I have hope that this is true for you and for me. I’ve seen it and I’ve experienced it. I really think it’s possible.
What makes life meaningful to you? The true and lasting fulfillments.
Chances are that those things won’t arise from the “safe” zone. Self-protection gets us an easier path, that’s for certain. But vulnerability brings us the things worth having, I think.
The things that will really matter to us in the long run- things that make up a cherished life- like being known, belonging, curating a place in the world, experiencing love and depth, making an impact, knowing joy… those things won’t arise from self-protective glass ceilings. These things come from the ounces of courage and grit we muster to risk hurt and pay the cost to reap a great reward.
Perhaps there is a deeper longing within us than isolated safety.
This courageous, hard, scary work is messy. It won’t be clean and it won’t be painless. But it will be meaningful.
Let’s navigate the harder path together.
If you find yourself at the Crossroads of safety and meaningfulness, you’re not alone. Our counselors are here to wander out into the risk and reward alongside you. Call (225) 341-4147 to make an appointment.