A sensitive introvert walks into a noisy bar, or a party, or an event where lots of networking and small talk are expected. The introvert knows how to do this, and even succeed, but picks up on the energy of the people in the room, feels like a fake so puts up walls to protect herself, talks to lots of other walls, and finally goes home irritated and drained. Does this sound familiar?
This is not the beginning of a bad joke, but a reality many people face regularly. Maybe you’re one of them? I certainly am.
It’s not that you don’t want connection, because, of course, you do. It’s those damn walls though, the ones you keep running into, as well as the ones you hide behind that prohibit authentic connection from occurring. It’s much easier to numb out and avoid the whole thing. (Yes, let’s drink wine and watch Hulu instead!)
Or you simply tamper down and stomp out any sign of vulnerability and its uncomfortable attributes before anyone picks up on it and tries to exploit or shame you in some way. You tighten up your wall security and deny the creeping fear.
You keep moving forward boldly, holding your breath all the way… but is it really bold?
Take Down That Wall!
A friend once told me that she needed someone to “storm her castle”, if they had any hopes of becoming close to her. After years of failed attempts by numerous people, she decided to change her strategy. The walls she erected to protect her, no longer kept her safe, but instead, they held her captive.
Her decision was to change the metaphor, and begin to function with less protection. Take down her walls by fearlessly, one step at a time, standing firmly in her discomfort, looking out of her own eyes and observing how her behaviors held her back, how her walls no longer served a purpose.
What would happen if you took down the walls that fortress you? What if, instead, you imagined your boundaries like a theatre stage? The curtain comes down, the curtain goes up, and sometimes there’s a scrim that obscures the whole picture while still letting people see through, even if only a little bit. A scrim provides mystery too, which is a great protection when you really need it.
Personal boundaries are necessary and can make you feel safe, but rigid boundaries are like walls around you that also block out joy and all kinds of good stuff. Joy can be scary too though. Sometimes it’s easier to be hyper-vigilant and anxious than it is to feel joy.
Badasses Are Not Haters
Badasses have a reputation for being cool, confident, and at times, intimidating, but they are not haters. True, haters use their power in a way that intimidates and looks like confidence, but they lack the ethical tough-mindedness of the badass.
The best distinction though, is that badasses are unafraid to make connections with all kinds of people. They are fearless in their ability to keep healthy boundaries, and yet, look into the eyes of another and see their common humanity.
Badasses are uncompromisingly ethical, and that translates to kindness and making connections with others in an authentic way. Haters, on the other hand, lack ethics and kindness, so they are just plain mean.
Acting like a hater is a detriment to your facial features.
How many times have you walked through an airport, a store, or down a sidewalk, and the faces you meet look right through you with a stony expressionless face? Maybe you’ve done the same?
It’s the walls again! They’re closing in!
Those same walls you use to protect yourself from the outside world are worn on your face. When you act hard and cold, your face looks that way too. Frowning repeatedly gives you unsightly lines on your face, whereas smiling perks you up and makes you more attractive inside and out.
A true badass is unafraid to smile.
True badasses know that their strength lies in their ability to be authentically vulnerable. Some people may think you you’re weird, let them.
Smiling does change the way you think. It creates a kind of confidence within you, and therefore you move through your day with more swag. People also smile back most of the time, so you’re contributing to better mental health for everyone.
Do you feel a need to be nice to telemarketers and strangers in cars? Good! You are a true badass. Being uncompromisingly ethical and tough-minded means taking complete responsibility for your behavior choices and making the best choices possible in each moment. You can say no in a respectful manner. You can use your manners and be tough.
Wear Your Vulnerability Like A Red Dress
You must know your brokenness in order to be made whole, and you must know your emptiness in order to become full—someone once told me that a long time ago and it has always rang true for me.
It makes sense, really, that we are immediately stronger when we acknowledge those places where we are not strong at all. As vulnerability research is now telling us, when we embrace our vulnerability, we become more of our authentic selves and less afraid as a consequence.
For so many years of my life, I felt less than. Less than what exactly, I cannot tell you. But I can tell you that I felt less than whoever or whatever I encountered and it held me back from becoming fully me. Fear was the culprit I couldn’t catch.
The only way you catch fear is through complete surrender.
Once you surrender, you realize fear is powerless over you and your very vulnerable self is actually your strength and your most courageous asset.
You can wear that vulnerability not only on your sleeve, but like a brilliant red dress that makes you feel beautiful—and if you don’t like dresses, wear a red tux. But the point is to acknowledge the power of accepting vulnerability and wearing it proudly– with a smile.
Challenge + Willingness = Courage
The willingness to face your own unique challenges, with practice, creates the courage you desire. But like any habit worth having, it takes practice. “Some days the bear will eat you; some days you’ll eat the bear”, as the old saying goes. Most important is your willingness to keep confronting the challenges.
As a sensitive person, you most likely feel so much of the energy around you, including all the beauty as well as the ugliness. That is, after all, why we like our walls. But if you’re living true to yourself by wearing your vulnerability gracefully, then you are creating the courage necessary to live in both the exuberance of joy and the shadow of fear.
Anxiety and fear will always be hanging around looking for an opportunity to get a foothold into your psyche. They don’t stay long when they are faced with courage, or at least their damage is minimized.
The strength of introversion is awareness and the ability to self reflect. You’re not going to change your fear, but you will learn to work with it. In time, the facing and acknowledging of that fear will expand your courage exponentially.
When you walk into that next uncomfortable situation—whether it be in the workplace, social event, or meeting a new potential mate—take a deep breath, plant your feet firmly to the ground you stand on, and be your own wonderful, wounded, anxious self.
You will contribute to the increase of authenticity in the world. You will feel better about yourself and everything you do. You will be a true badass in every way.