Shedding my armour
I have spent the majority of my life mounting ‘armour’ to protect myself #brenebrown . My earliest memories of encountering difficult experiences was that I would firstly reflect on them for many days, weeks and sometimes years afterwards. This reflection would be centred around how I could protect myself better the next time it happened. About how I could improve my armour and minimise the chances that I would be hurt again.
This armour could be more taxing goals like enrolling in a difficult sport or musical instrument which would take years of effort. It could also be simple things like trying to come up with witty responses on the fly or just simply avoiding things. My career was where I focused on building and investing in heavier higher protection armour. My friends and family I tried my best to just avoid, and in doing so, could cheaply protect myself.
I reached a turning point in my 30s. I still cared deeply about caring for and continuing to build my armour, but I noticed a sub-conscious change in my behaviour. I started to make decisions that were different from my peer group, decisions which made me stand out from the crowd. I didn’t return to my hometown to raise my kids, instead choosing to stay overseas. I didn’t move my kids out of the Chinese school when other non-Chinese families did. I didn’t make the safe career choice but started to take roles which were unpopular but had all of the challenges I wanted to tackle. All of which made me vulnerable.
I did have some armour in place though, but this too was subconscious. The armour which protected me was that I just didn’t care what others thought. This sounds so unlikely and unrealistic, and after caring so deeply for so long, it was definitely a strange reality to live. But for these choices, it felt very natural and almost effortless.
By my mid-30s I dialled it up further, and started to actually shed my armour.
First to go were heels. I started by changing my footwear for my commute, wearing trainers instead of heels and only swapping into heels when I arrived at work. Then I took it a step further and retired all my work heels, replacing them with flat office shoes.
Next to go was my love of black and grey clothing. I started to swap out plain and dull clothings choosing instead to wear patterned and bright clothing. I had a bright orange dress covered in white flowers, and a very very loud pink work jacket. I wore colourful statement jewellery which drew the attention of many. Even the standard eye glasses I wore were swapped out for heavier framed glasses.
The biggest shedding of my armour to date has been my hair. I cannot remember a period in my adult life when I didn’t have dyed hair and was already multiple years into trying to cover grey hairs. When my children asked what my natural hair colour was, I couldn’t even remember. So when I decided to stop dying my hair entirely, I wondered if this would be a temporary phase, which would end with being shamed into dying my really bad roots and grey hair.
I haven’t dyed my hair for 18 months now. Ironically I appear to have joined some sort of temporary trend of having ‘two toned’ hair with the top half one colour and the bottom half another. And ironically, the longer I do it, the stronger I feel.