An Argument for Softening Up On People
Just because I’m tough doesn’t mean I’m not human
When I was kid, my friend down the street had a pomegranate tree in her backyard. It was one of many trees that made her backyard look totally out of place in Phoenix.
The biggest tree was in the middle of the yard and sturdy enough that we could climb up there after we grabbed some fruit off the pomegranate tree. It’d take a long time to get to the seeds.
If you’ve ever tried to open up a pomegranate you know it’s an incredibly frustating activity. It’s not easy. It’s like it has it’s own defensive mechanism against being consumed already built-in. It’s an odd fruit.
I’m not unlike a pomegranate.
A little rough on the outside and you really have no idea what to do with it. It takes a ton of work to get to the good stuff but once you do, I like to think it’s worth it.
I have my own built-in defense mechanisms, as well. My humor is often self deprecating, a trait learned after years of trying to beat everyone to the punch. I sometimes isolate myself to reduce the risk of being rejected or hurt by others. More times I want to admit, I have told people I was okay when I wasn’t.
I’ve done these things out of a fear that any sign of weakness will be used against me. Vulnerability is absolutely terrifying to me.
As a result of all of this, I’m pretty tough. I can take a beating and not get damaged. What this has translated into more times than I desire is that some people feel no need to handle me with care.
I’m tough. I’m resilient. I can take it. I won’t mind if you drop me on the floor? Yes. Yes, I will. Please don’t do it.
Last year, I had a relationship go south after many months. I struggled to find peace even after obliterating him from my life. These things are never easy. He texted me a few days later to see if I was okay in the closure department. It really wasn’t necessary.
“I’ll be fine.”
“I know. You’re a strong woman.”
I felt like my strength always allowed him to throw anything at me he could. He could treat me with insensitivity because I wasn’t going to totally lose it on him. It left me feeling like one of those inflatable punching toys you had as a kid. Just shove it over and it comes right back up.
My resiliency is not an opportunity for you to be an asshole.
I started my career in a very male dominanted environment. I could hold my own. I realized quickly when backing down was the wise choice and when it wasn’t. It determined how people treated me and how far they would push me. I could take a lot.
The more sensitve people in the office were a different story. The sensitive ones get the care. Conversations are framed differently. Their feelings are considered. Words are carefully chosen. Us tough ones? Nope.
But, the tough ones require softness, too. We’re human. We may have worked long and hard to have a protective exterior but there’s a reason for that. What’s inside us is worth keeping whole and good. That beautiful, soft soul that we’re terrified you don’t see. That good stuff inside that gets smaller and smaller the tougher the exterior gets. It just invades.
We need care. We need softness. We need you to do the hard work to get to the seeds.
There are days when I feel like that soft interior is just going to spoil. Those are the days I seek softness. That’s when I share more love than I have. I fight tooth and nail to embrace the vulnerability to let folks know it’s okay to come in. I work to pull them close not matter how scary it is. That work is worth me doing.
I saw a video of a guy who carved out five little lines in a pomegranate and it just fell right open and the seeds just kind of spilled out. This. This is the holy grail of human relationship for me. People with the inclination to let me fall open.