Want my simple formula for overcoming defensiveness?
Growth Mindset + Identity Work + Emotional Strength Training
1. Everything is learning.
I only feel defensive to the degree that I buy into the idea that something is wrong with me. And I only get self-righteous when I convince myself that there is something inherently wrong with you.
Replace that mindset with the recognition that we are all learning and growing through varying stages of development, and that we are doing the best we can with what we are currently aware of.
2. Make peace with your parts.
When someone “attacks” me or my position on something it sets off a cascade of internal reactions.
Sometimes, I feel indignant. I brace against them. I often want to push them away, fight, or argue with them. I especially like to educate and correct their (in my view) erroneous perceptions of me or “things.”
Other times, I feel hurt, vulnerable, or sad. I want to move away from them and avoid them. I mentally remove them from my “bubble” and pretend they no longer exist in my world. I withdraw and ignore them. I flee and avoid.
If I am particularly triggered, I freeze up and have nothing to say. I sometimes move into a fawning defense where I smile (it’s fake) nervously and try to camouflage myself to become a mirror to them, showing them only what I think might appease them. I self-silence. I self-abandon. I go very still on the inside, but not in a choiceful or generative way.
Do any of these sound familiar to you?
They are all common defense strategies we use when we perceive a threat.
And what do I do with each of these parts of myself? That brings me to the third step:
3. Do some emotional strength training.
Practice being comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Feel your fear and help yourself settle.
Feel your vulnerability and appreciate your aliveness.
Feel your anger and celebrate your passionate intensity.
And what to do with all those parts we talked about in step two?
Love them up.
Make room for them.
Feel into them.
Listen to them.
Empathize with them.
If we want to overcome defensiveness, we need to make peace with ourselves and develop trust in ourselves. We need to lean into our experiences instead of bracing ourselves against them.
The quality of our relationship with ourselves is the foundation from which we build relationships with others. Once your relationship with yourself is solid, you will feel less and less defensive.
For more about overcoming defensiveness and loving up all your parts, check out this video up on my YouTube channel:
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