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Desire to Protect

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the act of protecting. Protection in the form of protecting ourselves and protecting those around us. As a child and young adult, I mostly focused on protecting myself based on fears. I was, at times, ruled by my fears.

Everything from my fear of being in the house alone, to my fear I would do something wrong, to my fear of getting hurt or seeing someone get hurt, to my fear of letting go, to my fear of not being enough. I would do everything I could to limit my exposure to experiencing these things because I had no idea what was on the other side of that fear. I limited challenging my protection bubble to times and opportunities where I felt confident and “in control”. I could push my protection bubble just enough so that it appeared I was carefree, and as soon as no one was looking, I would spring right back into the middle of my protected comfort zone. Safe from experiencing pain and fear and disappointment, or so I thought.

As I have progressed through adulthood, my career, and navigated parenthood over the last two decades, my understanding and application of protection has evolved. Fear still exists in many forms, but I have learned that when I push beyond my boundaries, I dismantle my fears, while learning and growing in the process. This naturally increases the opportunities where I have felt “safe” to go for it. Anytime I have been burned far enough out of my safe zone, I’ve recoiled, but I have learned a new skill or what not to do.

As I look around me, I see others responding to their fears for themselves and those they care about and lead. I see some jump into their fear like it doesn't exist and others sprinting away from it. I have found myself somewhere in the middle trying hard to scoop up other fearful souls around me and wrap my protection bubble around them, like Elastigirl in The Incredibles. As a protector, I have felt more fearless about myself and more concerned with the well-being of others. I have taken big chances and led from the front, many times being the first person to brave the unknown and absorb the brunt of the experience ahead in order to test myself, gain intel, and soften the experience for those who follow. Bruised and beaten, I have extended a hand to help and protect others anticipating their experiences ahead.

Sometimes the “protect” approach is needed and can smooth a tumultuous path for those you lead and love but oftentimes, carrying this weight for others only prolongs the inevitable experience they need to have to build their own muscle, skill and confidence. In this vein, protection impedes progress because so much of our learning comes from experiencing joy, fear, pain and triumph.

I’ve learned that sometimes I need to fall back in the pack and keep myself at arm's length as those I care about, coach, and lead enter fog, rain, thunder, lightning, and burning sun. I might be scared to walk alongside them as they experience their version of something I struggled with or have never faced, but I’m willing to pierce that protection bubble and be there as they navigate their version of their uncharted waters. Are you?

Hug your kids and family tight and let them lead the way through their unknown being there every step of the way. Provide the tools and support your team needs. Let them experience failure and help them see what they have learned to productively move forward. For all the roles you fill in your life, bring awareness to your desire to protect and ask yourself if the fear driving the desire to protect is valid and is that fear getting in the way of another’s progress.

Trust yourself to continue exploring beyond the precipice of your fears and be within reach of others to give and receive support along the way.

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