Put Down Your Armor: How to let go of the defenses that keep you from living life
I wear a suit of armor.
In fact, if this suit weren’t invisible, I could point to it piece by piece and tell you when and why I added each layer.
A shield when Richard died and I became a single parent. A helmet when I lost my job. Chainmail gloves as I embarked on the strenuous road of entrepreneurship.
Over the course of decades, since I was little, I’ve put on each piece to protect myself–to protect my heart. We all do this subconsciously. But the reality is that the more pieces you add, the heavier that armor gets. This hard shell you created to protect yourself can eventually become a burden to carry.
Part of my personal growth has been learning to take stock of that armor and recognizing when pieces no longer serve me. And when I do, I know I have to lean into the discomfort of consciously taking it off and setting it aside so that I can continue to grow.
One thing my circle knows about me, I’m always happy to lend a helping hand. If someone I love needs me, I am there to tell them, “I’ve got you.” No questions. No hesitation. With that said, I became deeply aware that accepting help was something I avoided at all costs, no matter how genuine or generous the offer. My first instinct was always to politely say, “No, that’s okay…”
I’ve got it handled.
I’ll figure it out.
I’ll never forget, one Christmas my church reached out because they wanted to send me some money to help take care of Christmas presents for Caleb. It was a loving, heartfelt act… And I said no.
I knew I needed the help, but my automatic response was so hardwired that I couldn’t let my guard down to accept it.
I think about that moment sometimes and wonder, Why didn’t you let them help you? What was it that kept you from just accepting that generous offer?
I can see now that it was pride. I didn’t want to admit that I needed the help. I told myself that there were other people who really needed it more than I did. But the reality was that I did need it, and I neglected my needs because of barriers I’d built. I created a narrative in my mind that I needed to meet Caleb’s needs all on my own; I didn’t want my single-parent-struggles to be a burden to anyone else.
So even before the pandemic, I knew that accepting help was a growth opportunity for me.
By the time the COVID shutdowns started, I’d been a single parent for seven years. And boy, let me tell you, the pandemic really magnified the pressure of playing all of those roles, all of the time.
Because suddenly, there were no breaks.
The pandemic was the first time I really realized how much I’d been shouldering all those years. And like so many people, when the world started to shut down, our little family suddenly felt so isolated.
So when my sister and brother-in-law invited us to move in with their family, knowing that this was a time when we didn’t need to be alone, you’d think it would’ve been an easy decision… it wasn’t.
I was weary, but I was also unsure. I felt vulnerable. I cried. A lot. My sister also shared that having an extra adult in the house would be helpful for their family too, but my armor was getting in the way.
So I took the time to sit with those emotions. When I dug in, it became so clear to me—accepting this help was an opportunity to grow.
It was an invitation to put down a piece of that armor that wasn’t serving me anymore. I needed to get better at accepting help when I truly needed it. When I checked in with myself, I thought about what would be best for our mental health and knew that relocating was the right thing to do.
I also knew I needed to be open to letting others help me because that love would flow through me to others. I might be on the receiving end of help in this moment, but tomorrow I might be on the giving end. If I turned down this caring support, I would be blocking that flow of loving energy.
So I said yes. To my sister. To the help. To myself.
In fact, it’s been sixteen months since we moved in with my sister and her family. And I honestly couldn’t have imagined all the blessings it would bring into my life. I’ve had the chance to deepen my relationship with my sister, my brother-in-law, my niece, my nephew. Caleb has relished the experience of having “siblings.” I’ve been able to get my legs under me financially. And having help with dishes, dinner, and chores has been an absolute game changer.
Honestly, if I’d decided to close myself off from this help, my life wouldn’t be as rich and full as it is today.
Your growth will always be tested. There will always be a new uncomfortable situation that will challenge you and shine a light on your negative emotions and unhealthy thought patterns.
And then you get to choose how you’re going to show up.
You get to ask yourself, “What’s bubbling up here? What’s the reflex I need to notice and grow through in this moment?”
You can choose to lean in, let your guard down, and when you do you’ll find beautiful blessings on the other side of that growth.
One more thing, along the way I’ve discovered that growth isn’t always about the big, heavy lifts—overcoming trauma, mending relationships, changing careers. So much of our personal growth is softer. It’s about digging in and noticing the internal walls we’ve put up—the ones we’ve been relying on for so long that we don’t even notice they’re there. We initially build them to protect us from the bad, but they ultimately also end up blocking out the good, too.
That kind of subtle growth is going to be unique to you because you’ve put on your armor over a lifetime, in response to very personal experiences. When you make space to notice those quiet growth opportunities, you have a chance to take inventory and ask yourself, “Is this barrier still serving me? Or is it time to let it go?”
Maybe it’s struggling to accept help, even when you really need it.
Maybe it’s putting on a big smile in moments when you’re uncomfortable, just to make other people feel comfortable.
Maybe it’s avoiding certain tasks or projects until the last minute because you think you work best under pressure.
Those pieces of armor may have served you for a time. But unless you’re consciously taking inventory, you might find that they are now holding you back and closing you off from your fullest potential. When you practice Stop & Shift, it’s not just about breaking the cycle of negative thoughts. It’s also about getting really good at recognizing your inner voice. Practice listening to your intuition because it will help you live your best life. Get clear about what comes up in uncomfortable moments, and be open to reflecting on whether your internal barriers are holding you back.
Put down your armor, friend. Give yourself the space to grow.
Hiya! I'm Karen.
My main goal is to give you the mental skills you need to experience less stress and more joy.
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