鎧 — pronounced yoroi — means armor in Japanese. That’s what you and I are wearing every day. We wear them out of fear. But armors are heavy, they constrain your movements, they make it hard to breathe, hard to see, and it’s like un sauna inside during summertime. So take it off, be vulnerable.
I can’t remember the last time I really cried, just let go of my emotions, tears flow down my cheeks and drop to the floor. In other words, the last time I really let myself be vulnerable, in touch with my emotions.
Truthfully, I am constantly putting myself under a lot of pressure. I am so tense, my physiotherapist says my lungs can’t expand properly because everything they are surrounded by is restraining them. That means I can’t fully breathe.
What kind of life is it where you can’t fully breathe? A life where you can’t get the fresh mountain air to fire up your lungs and make you feel alive? I don’t want that. Nobody wants that.
We’re all keeping up appearances. The modern-day knight wears his shiny suit while carrying his mighty briefcase through the city. But even when not wearing the business man’s attire, we’re all fabricating our own armor.
Early in the morning, before leaving my apartment on my bike, I check if I have a clean shave, wash my face, tie up my long hair tightly. I get some fresh t-shirt out of the wardrobe and lace up my boots. They make me feel confident. I check myself in the mirror — do I look the part? Am I ready to step out there?
It’s just a disguise really. I am flirting with breakdowns every week. I am only maintaining the illusion that I have everything under control because I don’t want to let go of it. What for though?
We grew up in times where, especially for men, we aren’t supposed to show vulnerability. I don’t think I have ever seen my dad cry. We ought to be the tough ones. We don’t show signs of weakness. If we do, we get eaten alive, right?
Of course, we could dive deep into the socio-historical origins of the alpha-male, and the need to show strength in a world where the weakest get stomped, crushed. Looking back at the greek heroes, roman soldiers, Japanese samurai, Mongol riders, WW marines, they all have the same thing in common: they wear armour and show no fear.
But times are changing, ever so slowly. Times need to change because feeling vulnerable inside is normal. Especially in uncertain times like those caused by a pandemic.
Showing vulnerability isn’t, however — contrary to popular belief — a sign of weakness. Quite the contrary, acknowledging your uncertainty, your doubt, your insecurities to someone shows you’re human.
I get it. It’s scary. I’m the first one to look for a safe haven. But just like you, inside, I know it’s better to open up.
Together, we should let our guard down, and sometimes, be vulnerable.
You will feel free
It’s once you remove your armor, that you will realize how much freedom there is around you.
Keeping up with appearances all the time is tiresome. It’s exhausting. It drains your energy. The energy that otherwise, you could use for more creative endeavors — enjoy your hobbies or start the project you always wanted.
Every day, you have a limited amount of that energy to spend. If it all goes to make sure you look bulletproof in every situation, you will have nothing left for yourself.
Letting yourself be vulnerable — accepting that being vulnerable doesn’t mean you will get hurt — will give you more freedom to enjoy the day.
You will realize things hurt less than you thought
What you were worried would hurt you, only leaves you with small scratches. In our ruminating minds, we tend to build up fear. It takes more and more space, to the point that a certain event might feel like the end of the world.
It’s not, really. But fear makes us want to hide deep inside ourselves. We retreat behind that armor we’re wearing, distancing ourselves from the world that surrounds us.
A business presentation, an interview, a date, or just even going out with friends, can become a challenging situation. You don’t want to show that you didn’t get the promotion, that you didn’t get the job, that your projects aren’t going well, that you’re insecure. You want to pretend everything is fine, awesome even.
But what if you would simply admit things didn’t go well, things aren’t going your way? Who would really blame or mock you? Only those that are wearing even heavier armors, those who fear more than you.
You will see opportunities
Have you ever worn a knight’s helmet? I did. You can’t see anything through it. You’re nearly blind. And the only things you can see entirely, are out of reach. But all the little things that are just around you, just under your nose, you can’t.
Take off the helmet, look around you, and you will see clearly again. You will see that despite the difficult times we are in, despite the challenges, there are always opportunities ahead.
When we’re stressed, we tend to focus on all the problems that surround us. Every opportunity quickly turns into more problems, and we stay clear of as many as we can, am I right?
My 7th-grade math teacher always used to tell me: there are no problems, only solutions. And in a way, that’s true.
To all the problems that we’re are facing now, as individuals, families, and societies, there are solutions.
Be the one to look for them. Help others get through the challenges you’ve overcome. But to do that, you need to remove that helmet first. You need to see the path ahead of you.
You will feel human again
What does it mean to be human? I don’t know exactly. I don’t have the answer to that more philosophical question. But what I do know, is that we humans are here to live.
But when we are constantly spending time inside my body armor, pulling that weight through the city, are we really human?
I am constantly — desperately — trying to appear normal. I am trying to not feel like a failure like everything is going wrong.
I don’t engage with people out of fear it will lead to more disappointment, more pain. I don’t commit, because I am afraid it won’t lead anywhere. I don’t do the projects I want to do, because I am scared to fail.
When I am home, I can curl up on my bed. But everytime I go out, I am afraid to show that vulnerability. Instead, I just wear my armor and focus all my energy on just looking alright.
Is that really a way of life worth living? Not to me. It is not. I want to change that.
Dropping the shiny plates, taking risks, and seeing where your ambitions will take you, that’s worth living.
But that’s only possible when you become vulnerable — when you accept that you might fail, might hurt, and that you might not go down the path you thought you would.
In Japanese, the word for “prisoner” is 囚人 — pronounced shuujin. The first character depicts a person inside a box. That could be us, inside that armor. We lock ourselves up, away from the world.
But we should be out there, embracing it with open arms. Our bodies, our minds are stronger than we think. They can take a hit. We don’t need to wear that armor to go through daily life, not all the time.
Without it we see clearer, we are faster and more free to move. You can bend over to seize an opportunity and let the person next to you help you forward.
Here’s a cliché for you:
What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.
It’s true though, and you know it.