Shrinking Down and Puffing Up: A Mantra revisited

“So…..why hasn’t your son committed to a school yet for XYZ sport. He’s so good, I thought he would have committed by now.” – Annoying Trigger Inducing Person.

Is she criticizing my son? Is she implying he isn’t good enough? I don’t know and it shouldn’t matter. And yet. I’m triggered. And annoyed.

Sigh. We all have one of these people in our life. Maybe it’s a neighbor, a fellow mom, an uncle, an old friend that’s like family. That one person who pushes our buttons and can bring us into some ugliness pretty darn quick.

So when this question was asked, my first internal (thank heavens!) response was “God your voice is so nasally and annoying. And where is YOUR kid playing XYZ sport in college? So what if mine hasn’t committed yet.” OH MY GOD. How mortifying. I am sharing my mortifying internal ramblings with you, gentle reader. Why? Because we all have them, I think…. And I want to share something that has helped me through the years when my vulnerability kicks in…..

My next internal (thank heavens!) response was “Gosh I know he hasn’t committed, we’re waiting on him to decide, we’re waiting on one more visit, we’re waiting to see if the finances will work out – and I’m embarrassed that the cost of where he may want to go is really really fucking expensive and that makes me feel like a failure as a parent and a person and money issues have always been a trigger for me too!”

My outward response, this whole time, begins with a raise of my eyebrows, a half smile and a locked jaw while nodding.

My next internal (PHEW!) response is…..”Breathe Neen, breathe. Do not shrink, do not puff up. Stand your sacred ground.” I wish I could take credit for that life changing mantra. Brené Brown came up with that doozy of an affirmation for when she needs to be reminded to live her most authentically.

And what is authentic living? For me, it’s standing in the integrity of my values. It’s knowing what my values are and having the self awareness to know when I’m not living my truth. Over the course of ten years, I’ve been learning to live authentically. I am learning to not shrink down and not puff up. I’m not always successful.

What exactly does it mean? Don’t shrink down? Don’t puff up? When we are at our most vulnerable, when we are triggered, we often use our armor to protect us. And when we armor up against vulnerability, we shut ourselves off from all the good in our lives.

Sometimes, armor comes in the way of shrinking down, making ourselves smaller, insignificant, playing into our own fears and weaknesses. I could easily say to Annoying Trigger Inducing Person “Yeah, I don’t know, hopefully he’ll pick someplace soon. He has a few options, I mean, they’re ok, it’s not like he’s going to play professionally or anything. So, we’ll just see…..”

Shrinking. This response is one of fear. It would make me feel small and unworthy. None of this is authentic.

Sometimes, armor comes in the way of puffing up – making ourselves large, getting defensive, acting bigger than we are, trying to prove a point, working hard to make ourselves look good. Puff out that chest, beat on it and stand tall. So here, I could easily say to Annoying Trigger Inducing Person “Yeah, well, he actually has so many offers in the works that he just can’t decide. Schools just keep calling! It seems all we do is go on college visits.”

Puffing up. This response is also one of fear and insecurity. It feels…yucky. To self import, to be defensive, to be untrue. While we think armor protects us, it actually does the opposite. It gives us a false sense of security and confidence.

Real confidence comes from living in our truth. Being who we truly are. Being vulnerable is being strong. Being vulnerable moves us into our authentic self.

And living in this authenticity is what truly protects us.

“Do not shrink, do not puff up, stand your sacred ground.”

What I do say out loud is, “Thanks so much for asking about him. He’s exploring some great opportunities right now.” I say goodbye. Make nice. I walk away. I breathe and call my dearest soul sister and share my ugly shrinking and puffing up thoughts and know that she will reassure me that I chose the most authentic path. Because I did.

My truth, when it comes to this specific situation is – I want my son to do whatever is best for him. He is a beautiful human being. One I get to guide and love and enjoy. He is talented, he is smart. He has opportunities in front of him. That is the truth in this situation. Truth can be so simple.

And let me say lovelies, most importantly, this post is not about my son. Or Annoying Trigger Person. It’s about me. Living authentically is always about Us. About me, about you. About being aware when we are feeling vulnerable and living through it. Truthfully. With authenticity. Being who we really are. And we all are pretty fabulous – even though we have some mortifying, internal ramblings from time to time. Just keep ’em internal, ok?



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