Why are you wearing that suit of armour to work?

watch-icon March 26, 2021

Why are you wearing that suit of armour to work?

A big part of workplace culture is how we navigate relationships. It’s not the only thing but it’s what I’m going to talk about now.  

One of my personal secret pleasures was recording Oprah and Dr Phil and coming home from school and learning from the best in the biz.  

One of these sessions was with a couple who were having marriage problems. Dr Phil looked at the guy and said 

“You can either be right or be in a relationship.”  

My sixteen year old mind took sometime to process this and  it’s fair to say at sixteen, given I knew everything then, that rejected it as old people speak. At sixteen of course I was right all the time.  

With the wisdom of experience I know what Dr Phil said to be true. I also know that at the heart of why it’s true is because I, and you, need to be right to serve our fragile ego. Being right is a nice big chunky armoured suit that we wear to protect our fragile selves.  

Armour?  What armour?  

Armour is the things we do, say, and think to protect ourselves from that annoying feeling of ”I’m not enough”.  

Generally we protect ourselves through acts that please others, avoid others, and/or are aggressive. These acts can be personal but also include, protectionism, overworking, ego, always ‘being right’, and avoiding conflict to name a few.  

It’s how we protect our selves from vulnerability.  

Unfortunately protecting ourselves from vulnerability is a double edged sword. Yes we get protected (kind of) from pain but we also miss out on all the great that comes from vulnerability.  

Life, love, innovation, creativity, fun and happiness. All vulnerable stuff.  

 What you need to know about vulnerability.  

It’s just part of the process. You can protect yourself from it but it’s always there. Technically, it’s not whether we have it or don’t. It’s whether we accept it or don’t.  

When we fight against vulnerability we loose our ability to be whole. We put on our armour and we go and face the day.  

The armour we wear is to protect ourselves from the ‘big emotions’  (like vulnerability) and eventually becomes a habit that we need to unlearn.  

We don’t always reach for armour just because we’re scared in the moment. We reach for it the same way as we reach for our toothbrush in the morning. We are so used to rejecting our vulnerability because of (add personal reason here) that we pop our armour on without a lot of thought. Wearing Armour is something we need to unlearn.  

How do you take the armour off? 

Firstly by acknowledging that the armour is heavy,  it’s weighing you down and it’s not serving you. This is often the hardest.  

Part of the process of unlearning armour is accepting the uncomfortable feeling of vulnerability/ shame/anxiety/‘big emotion’/fear. We do that by becoming super conscious of these emotions and our triggers. Learning to identify what triggers the emotions in a given situation will help you identify and remove the everyday armour also.  

It’s sometimes easier to be conscious of the armour in these times because the trigger and the emotions are usually heightened. I’m triggered, I feel shame, I feel myself reaching for my extra shield. Sometimes this shield is like an automatic force field that goes up around you so quickly you don’t realise it’s happened. Once you are conscious of it then you can do something about it.  

Simply, the way to change behaviour is  

  1. You choose to do the work to change.  
  2. You analyse your behaviour on reflection.  
  3. Then you get better at it so you stop yourself in the moment and correct yourself mid fight.   
  4. Then better again when you don’t use armour at all – takes time, and conscious practice.  

I’ve consciously been working on removing my armour for about three years now. I’m still a work in progress. My favourite armour is achievement, and at a close second perfection. I fight the “I’m not enough” demons in my head daily.  

Be a gladiator without the armour.  

Personally I’m a very visual learner and my creative brain is my biggest strength. I imagine this stuff as something I really do – I bring the metaphorical to life in my imagination. Maybe my crazy visualisation will help you.  

Before I did my work, I’d armour up to leave the house. The ‘every day’ armour I would wear is Kevlar. Its light and easy to wear so I pop it on when I’m not thinking and get dressed, then leave the house. Sometimes I felt the need for extra armour, ie: full gladiator getup. Sometimes I needed the extra protection of my shield to protect me in the moment. They are all stored in my armoury to grab when I felt unsafe.    

Now when I walk out into the world. I know I have my hard earned internal protection (ie self awareness/self-confidence/empathy/emotional literacy etc) but to get to into the world I still have to walk through my Armoury room. I see my external protection devices – ie the usual Kevlar, the full Gladiator get up and the shields – I know they are there, but I choose not to use them.  

It’s sometimes a struggle not to put them on, particularly the Kevlar, because it’s been so handy in the past. But I focus on what I lose by wearing it.  

The big thing I lose when wearing it. Relationships. All these years later DrPhil would be glad to know that I understand that if I want the relationship I can’t fall into the armoured habit of fighting for my right ‘to be right’.   

We all have an individual Armoury room that we walk through before walking into the world. The biggest challenge we have each day is acknowledging the armour, walking past it and walking into the world armed with our internal protection and the knowledge that vulnerability is just part of the process.  

If you want to learn more about the armour your habitually wear and how you can start the process of removing it. Have a look at our Dare to Lead™️ programs.  

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Michelle Holland