You can wear emotional armour, but the effect is the same as wearing none: people will break into you either way. It’ll just hurt more if you get cut by the sharp edges of your pierced armour.
Let them see who you are anyway, whether they deserve your vulnerability or not. Your choice to be yourself is not something that can be earned by other people.
It is a gift to yourself.
When we show people who we really are, how we hurt, how we love, we are throwing lifelines to the people who matter, who will mean the most to us, who will become our people.
There is something incredibly powerful in being able to say “it’s ok if you don’t like me”.
It doesn’t mean that you don’t care; of course we all want to be liked. We’re tribal animals – there is safety in numbers, and we feel more protected when we have greater numbers of people who do like us than greater numbers of people who think we’re “a bit much, actually”.
When I was eight years old and at boarding school, I was completely driven by the herd mentality. I was away from my family (you know, the people who had to love me because they made me) and there was no genetic loyalty to fall back on.
I needed allies, and I needed them as fast as I could possibly find them. So I made myself agreeable. I was definitely not the smartest kid in my year (I was developmentally almost a year behind the rest of my class because I was literally a year younger than them) so I couldn’t trade on that – no one wanted to copy my homework.
I wasn’t particularly funny then either. At this point, I had yet to work out how to disarm people with outlandish behaviour or crass jokes (again, I was eight).
But the one thing I could do really well was to keep quiet and stay the hell out of the way.
And I did this by reading. When my herd wasn’t there to protect me (because they were day pupils and I was a boarder) I retreated into books and did my best to be agreeable by staying out of the way and saying nothing. It’s pretty difficult to argue with and hate someone who’s barely there (although it’s achievable for the truly determined, unfortunately).
I think that most people who know me as a thirty-three year old would be fairly incredulous to know that my emotional armour is silence.
As an adult, I am LOUD. I talk a LOT. I make people laugh as much and as hard as I can. I can be brash, inappropriate, and I am practically incapable of leaving unintended innuendos alone, no matter how professional the setting is (but seriously, no one should use the word penetration at a 7:30 breakfast meeting. At least buy me dinner first).
And to some people, this may honestly seem like my emotional armour. We often use humour as a way to deflect attention from ourselves.
But when I write about passing out in the middle of shagging the world’s tallest Oompa Loompa (6ft9, thank you very much) because I was in so much pain, or when I tell you about spitting a speculum out across a nurse’s exam room (most awkward smear test I’ve ever had), or fishing cake frosting out of my cleavage on a crowded Jubilee Line train, it’s not because I’m trying to distract you with hilarity and high jinks.
It’s because I’m NOT wearing my emotional armour. I’m inviting you to enjoy my mess, because I enjoy the mess that is me. I’m inviting you to look at this mess and make up your mind as to whether you’re cool with it, or if it’s just not for you.
And it’s okay whatever you decide.