I don’t think anyone can ever truly be ready for what life throws their way. There is always the unexpected that can happen in the outside world, or even growth in unexpected ways within ourselves.
One thing though that I have learned over the years is to prepare myself for what life throws at me in a more productive way. In short, to develop a bit of a harder shell while still choosing to stay soft to the world.
Everyone has their own way of living their life so this is not to say that this is the choice for everyone but for me, this seems right. The problem with choosing to live in this “grey” area is that you need to develop skills in both areas.
This perhaps was the hardest thing for me to develop. But as I went through school and sometimes got grades or feedback that hurt, I had to learn not to just retreat or go in defense mode. I had to learn to take the feedback with all the grace and style I could muster and learn from it.
Tied to that, I had to learn to not let it break me down personally. This perhaps was the hardest lesson to learn. It can, at times, be quite easy to put on an act that nothing is phasing us. However, we can’t fool ourselves. To be quite honest, I used to take feedback, criticism, and little digs quite hard, even if they came with the best of intentions. I had this mentality that I wanted to be perfect to everyone. After much pain and hardship, I learned this wasn’t possible.
What I also learned was that I couldn’t keep punishing myself for my imperfections. Rather, I had to learn from the ones that would help me in life and brush aside the ones that simply were not of value. I’ll admit, at times, it’s still a work in progress, but my shell is hardening when it needs to but not so much that I’m not allowing for the growth opportunities that often come with feedback that is constructive.
This was pretty easy for me to maintain as it was my default life modus operandum. The hardest part was not letting life’s knock-downs keep me down, which was a bit hard given my very soft inner shell. These were the moments I had to rely on my hard shell to kick in a bit.
While this overall is an easy state for me to maintain, I find I do still need to monitor it. Sometimes having too much of a soft shell can cause me to become generous to a fault. I give too much of myself or I fall for the sad story too much to my own detriment. With some diligence though, this state has definitely been an easier one for me to manage.
The Balancing Act
All in all, I’ve learned that life is a balancing act. I think we all put forth a little of each of these shells but just fall in various spots on the spectrum with each. Some of us are at the extreme ends while others, like me, fall somewhere in the middle. Each come with their challenges. The initial challenge begins with choosing where on the spectrum you want to live your life. Once you have that figured out, half the goal is achieved. Then you just need to learn how to live a healthy life in that spot. To roll with the punches and give with your heart to the level you have chosen.
Soft Shell or Hard Exterior?
Where do you fall on this spectrum? How did you decide where your “happy place” was? Do you still find you struggle to maintain it?