I feel like a turtle.
I built a protective shell around myself by pretending to be what people wanted me to be. It was safer that way. Over the years, my shell became comfortable and familiar. Inside this shell, I’m safely hidden away. No one can mock, judge, or ridicule the “me” they can’t see.
If I do step out of my comfort zone, I feel like a turtle out of its shell running through a briar patch. It’s painful. I don’t like it. I have a lot of scars that serve as reminders to stay within the safety of my shell.
The problem with a shell is that, even though it offers protection, it’s heavy and confining.
The shell limits what I can see and do and accomplish. If I want to do all of the things I wish I could, I’m going to have to venture out of my shell.
People often say that one should act with confidence. The trouble is, I don’t feel at all confident. I am, however, finding my courage. I see a huge difference between confidence and courage. Confidence says, “I’ve got this.” Courage says, “I’m not so sure I’ve got this, but even though I’m shaking and scared, I’m going to do it anyway because it’s important to me.”
“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the assessment that something else is more important than fear.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt
Just like a turtle, I am easily startled. And just like a turtle, I tend to dart for the safety of my shell when I’m scared. My therapist and I refer to this tendency of mine as “turtle-ing.” It’s not unusual for her to say something like, “Erin, I see you’re turtle-ing. Do you know what caused that?” The goal is for me to notice for myself when I’m doing this and to reflect and try to figure out why and how I can fix it. It’s not always easy, but it is always worth the effort.
“You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
A couple of weeks ago, I started a new job. I’ll be completely honest: I was absolutely terrified. This was a massive leap of faith for me. As I get to know my new team, even though I can’t honestly say I completely trust them yet, I am feeling my anxiety subside. They’re incredibly compassionate and supportive; so much so that I actually feel relatively safe with them already (that’s not normal for me at all!!). On day one of training, I had an opportunity to speak my truth (come out of my shell) or stay silent (turtle-ing). I hesitated for a moment, but ultimately decided, even though I was scared and shaking, to go for it and speak my truth.
“Speak the truth, even if your voice shakes.” – Maggie Kuhn
Their immediate response was compassion and empathy. I’m not used to that. I’ve very rarely experienced anything other than rudeness and misconceptions when telling my story because of the social stigma attached to trauma; so I’m always surprised when anyone responds instead with compassion, understanding, and empathy.
To be on a team that actually has my back (it’s the company culture, not just so many words) is making me feel like I can do anything. I know I won’t always feel totally safe and comfortable with leaving my shell. Some days I’ll want to curl up in it and shut the world out, even with the most supportive team on my side.
“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow.’” – Mary Anne Radmacher
And that’s okay. As they say, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” There are no quick fixes when it comes to working through trauma. It’s a process. Even through the setbacks: Don’t give up hope; it does get better.
What are your goals? What would you do if fear didn’t hold you back? What is more important to you than fear? Go for it! Take small steps if you need to. Know that failure is perfectly normal and there’s nothing inherently wrong with it. It’s a learning opportunity, not the end of the world. The most important thing is: Don’t give up. Take a break when you need to. Rest. Recharge. Regroup. Then get back out there and try again.
#breakthesilence #endthestigma #bethelight