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Being More Aware of Our Defensiveness

Defensiveness is a hard shell to crack. We typically get defensive when we perceive an attack and take it personally. We become defense attorneys for the most trivial opinions. The crazy thing about being defensive is that it is our default nature. If we believe we are being attacked, the first thing we will do is build a wall. Even if we try to discuss a conflict with a loved one, our mind automatically goes toward the negative. We can be hurt by what another person has said or done to us.

The problem with taking something personally and building up a defense is not only does it block unwanted feelings, but it also blocks the opportunity for a deeper connection with the other person. Someone could be vulnerable in expressing some distressing emotion, and our inability to acknowledge one’s emotion to deflect our own creates even more conflict.

The funny part of being defensive is our lack of awareness that we are defensive. We can argue unconsciously. The argument is probably the most acceptable interaction when it comes to perceived hurt. If someone hurts our ego, the only thing we know to do is prove them wrong. In doing so, we kind of take pride in being defensive because we treat it as a form of self-love. We believe that we’ve accurately depicted ourselves in the face of lies. We are the only ones who can represent ourselves accurately. It’s an act of protecting our honor. The underlying issue is that this belief in self-love comes from a place of self-doubt and wanting to prove to ourselves that we aren’t the perception of the other person. Having an unconscious readiness to defend ourselves probably means that we are also defending ourselves constantly in our heads.

Transcending Defensiveness

Our defensiveness gets to the point where criticism isn’t explicitly expressed but implied. A person can make a simple observation and it’s our duty for us to prove how untrue it is. These can’t be the patterns of true self-esteem. True esteem wouldn’t care what people would have to say of us. However, we can’t get to this point of realization until we deal with our inner critic and the defensiveness we offer there. Charity always starts at home. Our inner critic is what controls our narrative and makes us accountable for all the things that happen in our lives. I recently wrote an article about not believing in accountability that I think would be a good read. This inner critic prevents us from being our authentic selves. A self that doesn’t care what we think of ourselves. A wild concept, right?

With this new perspective, we can take in criticism and critical feedback as a way to learn. We don’t have to automatically accept it just as we don’t have to automatically deny it. We can listen consciously to what is being said. If the words match up with our values, we can learn. If they don’t, we can simply dismiss them. We don’t have to prove to the other person who we are. If someone says something outlandish, we can take it for the joke that it is. It’s much better to take a negative reaction as positively as you can. Practice with yourself. The next time your inner critic has something nasty to say about you, laugh it off. It’s the best medicine.