The Hidden Fear:

You’ll be judged, criticized or taken advantage of by others if you share your feelings or ask for help.

What it looks like in relationships:

Your partner says he needs to talk because he’s feeling lonely and shut out by you lately. You immediately tense up and feel anxious. You don’t understand why your partner needs to share his feelings all the time. You’re uncomfortable with these kinds of “talks” and often avoid them whenever possible. You tell him you can’t deal with this right now because you’ve got too much going on. When he asks when you’ll have time, you say “I don’t know” and avoid offering alternative options while thinking to yourself, “I wish he would just handle his stuff on his own like I do.”

How this habit serves you:

You get sh*t done! You’re highly productive, confident and resourceful. You are driven to succeed and you strive for greatness in many areas of your life. You pride yourself on not letting “emotions” get in the way of what needs to get done. Sociable and capable of conversing with just about anyone, people enjoy your straightforward and practical advice and admire your self-confidence and high self-esteem. You are able to identify problems and “threats” quickly and enjoy solving even the most complex problems using rational and analytical reasoning. You live by the motto, “If you want it done right, do it yourself.” Your drive, strong work ethic and self-reliant nature supports you in reaching high level executive roles or leadership positions.

How this habit hinders you:

Harshly critical of others and even harder on yourself, people sometimes see you as cold and unapproachable. Fearing your judgment of not being able to “keep up with you,” friends, family members and co-workers often shy away from sharing how they really feel. Blocking or dodging the emotions of others is how you repress your own feelings. This coping mechanism (often learned early in life through repeated disappointment or unfulfilled expectations) creates an emotional barrier between you and other people. Always prepared for the inevitable pain of being let down or being disappointed by others, you “protect” yourself by not letting anyone in. Believing you can only depend on yourself, this “handling things on your own,” or refusing to delegate for fear they’ll do it “wrong,” creates a cycle of isolation, loneliness and disconnection that eliminates the potential for healing, support and mutually fulfilling relationships. Shutting people out only reinforces the self-fulfilling prophecy that you cannot rely on anyone except yourself to meet your high expectations or fulfill your needs. Ironically, this creates the exact pain you are trying so hard to avoid – feeling alone, isolated, overwhelmed and burdened.

What this habit can teach you about yourself:

While you put on a great show of strength, confidence and an “I’ve got this,” type of vibe, if you look a little deeper, you might find that you shut down emotionally (consciously or unconsciously) a long time ago to protect yourself. Whether you learned as a child that to express your feelings was weak, wrong or unwanted, or your sense of safety and trust were violated in some way during a vulnerable time in your life, you learned to steel yourself and repress emotions to protect your tender heart. To avoid pain and disappointment, you relied solely on yourself to meet your own needs. You may even continue to dodge your own feelings today for fear you won’t be able to handle the pain that arises when you do. However, shielding yourself from your true feelings or denying others the safety to share theirs is not true strength or autonomy. Nor does this keep you from being let down or being disappointed by others. Instead, this habit creates an impenetrable barrier that keeps out the love, the trust and the loyalty you desire and deserve. When you are ready to let down your guard, you’ll discover a beautiful balance between independence and interdependence, between thinking and feeling, between being self-reliant and being vulnerable. This balancing act requires trust in yourself that you are fully capable of managing the emotional ups and downs in life.

Deeper Discovery Questions:

  • Do you often feel let down or disappointed by others?
  • Do you have a difficult time forgiving yourself when you make a mistake?
  • Do you beat yourself up when you fail or don’t perform at the level you anticipated?
  • Do you feel pressure to act a certain way?
  • Do you find it difficult or uncomfortable to express how you feel?
  • Do you believe asking for help or being vulnerable is a sign of weakness?
  • Is your motto “If you want something done right, you gotta do it yourself?”

Self-Guided Exercise:

As a playful experiment, try delegating one simple task to a coworker and outline your expectations. Notice how it feels to depend on others.

Or, ask yourself what’s the worst thing that could happen if you expressed your feelings?