The Sword, The Shield, & The Armor
**TLDR version at bottom**
Growing up is hard. There is no way around it. There will be challenges, confusion, and pain intertwine with the joy and comforts we will find. This is the human experience. Ups and downs will look different for all of us but rest assured they are there.
Growing up can genuinely feel like a battle. Day in, day out, banging your head against life’s challenges. So, what does every good medieval solider need? A sword, a shield, and some good armor (the horse is optional).
The Armor Let’s start with our Armor (back to front from the title, I know). Sticking with our medieval metaphor. Armor keeps you safe from the things that creep past your sword and shield. These attacks may knock you off balance leaving you vulnerable to another attack. In our minds, armor serves a similar role. These are the experiences we have survived: experiences we have navigated that carried enough tension to require our focus, that challenged us to pay attention even when we don’t want to. The growing pains. The experiences of having to call out our friend for crossing our boundary, the times we must end relationships, when we must learn how to share, our experiences losing at sports or getting worse grades than we expected. These moments, once experienced – are your armor. Make no mistake, these moments suck. They feel unbearable at times and, at times, nearly break you. They are also the necessary steps to becoming the people we want to be in life. If we’re lucky, we’ll have a shield handy to take the brunt of that impact.
There are different kinds of shields. Some at wood, some are steel, some have a cool little sword holder, some are meant to nestle a spear into for defensive formations. Regardless we all know what shields do. They make sure that what is trying to hurt us, can’t get us. Shields, in our case, are first (in an ideal home) our parents. They stand up for you when your siblings are out of line, buffer you from other adults like teachers, store clerks, coaches, etc, and facilitate introductions to your hobbies (think “hand me the tool” instead of “fix the engine for me bud” or making sure you sign up for flag tag football before tackle). It may not feel like it in the moment, but that is your parents being a shield. For those of us with unstable homes, and those of us building community as an adult it is our friends. They are there to make sure you don’t ask for too low a salary at that interview, not swipe right on that person with a million red flags or stop you from that last shot of tequila on taco Tuesday. Again, it may not feel like it but that is them being your shield. You are never too old to have a shield and never too strong. With our defense in place let’s get to everyone’s favorite in therapy – the sword.
I say favorite because we always want to figure out how to “fix it”. The sword is wonderful. By itself, the sword can protect you, deflect attacks, and cut down your enemies. It can be heavy like a broad sword forcing its way through others; it can be nimble like a dagger using a dozen controlled strikes. It’s what allows us access to clear a path forward. We all want to know the trick is to vanquish our anxiety, beat our depression, or win the confrontation. The sword, in our case, is actively figuring it out. It’s the moments we stand up for ourselves, or the moments we choose to say yes (or no) when unsure. It’s setting boundaries, asking for more, and challenging yourself. The sword appears in the moments that we are present with what is, and willing to engage with what’s in front of us rather than ignore. The secret to the sword or “the fix” is that it is like the cutting edge of a blade, narrow. You barely see it. The sharpening is done in private. It’s in how you speak to yourself when no one else is around. The edge grows sharper. The sharper your blade (the better your self talk) the easier it feels in the moment to make the decision that respects your own personal values. Our shields, and then our armor, buy us time to sharpen those swords – they are important.
Putting It Together
Life moves fast. It’s common to find ourselves in situations where we need our sword before we really have a chance to register that *this is the moment*. We won’t always be ready (which is why we need out Shield), and we won’t always be sure (which is why we need our Armor). We have to take time with ourselves to sharpen the blade, even when it isn’t convenience, so we can have it is ready. This can look like journaling, reflection, meditation, vulnerable conversations with trusted people, exercise, self-care (whatever self care looks like for you) and getting some rest. My blade feels most sharp after being out on my motorcycle (fully present, emotionally heightened, and free). There is no one way to sharpen your blade – take that as a permission to be creative rather than a lack of answer. You must listen to yourself and be humble with how you feel in moments of confidence. How do you feel when at peace? What makes you feel relaxed? When are you most aware of all that is around you and all that is within you (for my athletes - think of being in the zone during a game and moving intuitively)? Or, if nothing else, when do you feel less crappy? That is where we start: a single moment of feeling a little less crappy and running with it.
Shield: This *should* be your parents when you are young and your friends when you are older. Their role is to help you avoid situations that you simply are not ready for.
Armor: Your experience with challenge and change. The hard times you have survived until now that show you that you can withstand things not going right.
Sword: The tools that you have learned through life (therapy, friends, family) that give confidence you have some control in the situation and CAN make change.
Questions and comments are SUPER welcome. We grow through challenge, and I am nowhere near perfect with my information or presentation. I hope I never am. For me, conversations evoke more learning that reading.
As always. This does NOT replace therapy. Nor does it reflect any style of treatment. This is just some Things I said in Therapy.