The Curse of Self-Protection: “Don’t Make That Face, It’s Gonna Freeze That Way.”

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It’s not easy being a kid. Kids have all the emotions that adults have, but they’re yet to figure out coping skills. Especially the little ones.

They act on their emotions rather than dealing with them. Excessive stress leads to behavioral problems.

However, in some ways, I admire their lack of emotional regulation. Kids are wildly authentic. Little ones haven’t learned yet to self-monitor. To adapt their behavior to best fit the situation at hand.

But as they grow older, they begin to don the masks that adults find so natural to wear.

As Brene Brown writes:

Upper elementary school and middle school was where most of us started to try on new and different forms of protection. At this tender age, the armor is still awkward and ill fitting. Kids are clumsy in their efforts to hide fear and self-doubt, which makes it easier for observers to see exactly what armor they are using and why. And depending on the level of shame and fear, most kids have yet to be convinced that the heaviness of the armor or the suffocating nature of a mask is worth the effort. They put on and take off personas and protection without hesitation, sometimes in the same sentence: “I don’t care what those people think. They’re so stupid. The dance is stupid. Can you call their moms and find out what they’re wearing? I hope I get to dance.”

The Cursed Armor of Self-Protection

And as children grow more adept at cultivating self-protection, they grow into adults like us. Grownups who can’t get our emotional armor off even when it’s working against us to wear it. Like cursed equipment that looked so good in the treasure chest.

Suddenly, we want to connect with others but are too practiced in camouflage to remember how to drop our shields. And once we figure out how, it’s still a terrifying matter to convince ourselves it’s safe to.

“Don’t Make That Face, It’s Gonna Freeze That Way”

It turns out it’s not the goofy faces we made that lingered but the brave front. The affected cool.

It would seem that Mom said the right thing at the wrong time.

Featured Image: CC BY – T. Cowart