There’s a video of me aged 3.
I march into shot, stating loudly “look, Daddy, I did it all by myself”.
It’s become a standing joke in my family - a perfectly captured moment of the essence of my personality.
I did all by myself has become something of a mantra ever since. I’ve always prided myself on my independence. It became my armour. Because if I didn’t need anyone, no one could hurt me.
I felt that I had to be strong. I went to boarding school when I was 8 years old; I grew up in a military family, always moving, and I actually told my parents I wanted to go away to school when I was just 6. Leaving home and my family at such a young age was tough but I felt deep down that it was the best choice for me and I had to make it work. And so, over the years, I packed away my vulnerability and my fragility because I couldn’t tolerate a chink in my armour.
With the help of a wonderful coach, I’ve been gradually taking down some of those walls and glimpsing my shadow. [It’s important for me to say here that I didn’t seek out this help; coaching was a requisite part of signing up for the Instant Pause Licence - that will become more relevant in a moment]. I explored my visceral discomfort with the idea of me being fragile or delicate. And I slowly started to realise that my version of strength was brittle and rigid and was no longer serving me.
It’s been a slow and gradual process and then I made a huge break through that wall last week when I hired a business coach. I realised that I thought I had to do it all by myself to be successful. That needing someone to help me meant I wasn’t good enough. That I had failed somehow because I couldn’t do it all myself.
Does that sound silly?
My problem has never been the act of asking for help. It’s been not realising it’s time to ask for help. I’ll just keep going and going. Or I’ll get bored and go do something else, pretending I didn’t want that anyway. I realised that the opposite of strong isn’t weak, that doing things with support and with other people amplifies my strength, rather than diminishing it.
I used to say one of my values was independence. I've subtly changed that recently to freedom. I want to be able to make my own choices and have agency in my own life but I don’t want to be disconnected or to do this all on my own. I’m understanding that I can make friends [another legacy of my RAF childhood was constantly moving, regularly saying goodbye to people, and never staying in touch] and that having people around me makes me stronger.
I’m defining a new version of strength. This version is softer and kinder but even more powerful. It’s tapping into my feminine energy in ways I never have before. It’s flexible and adaptable while never losing its shape. Like a spider’s web.
This has been far from an easy process. Joining communities of like-minded people has helped. So have the wonderful friends I’ve made. Even that relationship that hurt so much there were times I couldn’t breathe showed me these old hurts and patterns so I could heal them and grow stronger.
I’m shedding my armour. I already feel lighter. I know I don’t need to keep battling. That I stand with an army alongside me and we will change the world. [I may have also been binge-watching Vikings recently which may explain my choice of metaphor!]
I know this will be resonating with some of you. Many of my clients - beautiful, powerful, amazing women - share that perspective on strength. They believe that they have to be self-sufficient and self-reliant and never depend on anyone in order to be successful. They struggle to set boundaries and to articulate their needs to others because somehow that makes that them weak.
These beliefs helped protect us once. But when they no longer serve us, they becoming limiting beliefs. I’m not going to tell you that it’s easy to shift a limiting belief - it’s not. They are deeply worn paths in our minds. But they are just beliefs. They are not real or true or empirical. Just beliefs. And that means we get to change them.
Like me, you might not even realising you’re wearing armour. That’s the first step. Noticing that you’re wearing it, that you hold these beliefs about yourself. Then you start to get a choice about whether to take it off, one little piece at a time.
If this has resonated with you, I’d love to talk to you. You can book a free call with me to explore how transformational coaching might help you.