Ever wonder why we walk on eggshells around some people and not others? Why we tiptoe and dance around some people, rarely interacting or communicating authentically, truthfully, or honestly? Why is it we can be open and free with some people and not with others?
Perhaps something allows us to feel more comfortable around some people. We feel relaxed, at ease, and can be ourselves, freely. We respond openly, honestly, authentically, and share our true selves. We trust ourselves.
Perhaps something influences our discomfort around some people. We feel nervous, edgy, and out of sorts. We respond tentatively, dishonestly, superficially, and avoid sharing our true selves. We don’t trust ourselves.
I remember growing up and feeling uncomfortable around certain people. I felt anxious, nervous, and tied up in knots. I was tentative, nodded, smiled, and obeyed, and hid my true self. I moved lightly and censored my voice. I chose my words, my decisions, and my actions cautiously in order to control how certain others might react to me. I was afraid.
Why are we fearful around some people and not others?
Perhaps we are fearful of particular emotions, words, or actions. When I was growing up, I was afraid of reactions that involved anger. I could handle just about any feeling or emotion, but anger scared me. As for consequences, conflict, rejection, abandonment, disapproval, and judgment were my Big 5. I avoided words or actions that might ignite anger and any one of the Big 5.
Because of my fear of anger and the Big 5, I didn’t trust being authentic around some people. I didn’t trust their reactions toward me…and I didn’t trust me enough to be okay with their reactions or the consequences that might unfold. So, I did what perhaps others have done or do, I manipulated and controlled my environment, and me. I put myself in a straight jacket to ensure everything was in place in order to protect myself and avoid any of the dreaded reactions and consequences.
Why are we afraid of reactions and consequences with some people and not others?
I think the fear associated with walking on eggshells has a lot to do with trust. Trust in self. Trust in others. If I trust me, I trust that I will remain whole no matter the reactions and consequences I receive. If I trust others, I trust that we will remain whole; together we will move through what unfolds, remain connected, and emerge whole, and often closer.
We walk on eggshells when we don’t trust ourselves, others, or our relationships.
Sometimes people in our lives are unable to react to us in ways that grow trust. Perhaps their wounds are extremely deep, they struggle with a mental health issue, or they are incapable of relationships. These individuals make it hard to develop trust. Their reactions are uncertain, unpredictable, and sometimes uncaring. Over time, our resilience flounders and we begin to doubt ourselves. Trust fades; living vulnerable and afraid intensifies.
Sometimes we grow up in loud, emotional, perhaps even violent homes. The floor is covered with eggshells and everyone learns to tread lightly so not to “upset” a particular family member. Secrets and “Don’t tell” become norms. We either eventually flee these types of environments or we come to see them as normal while integrating ineffective relational behaviors that, if not addressed, follow us into future relationships.
Sometimes people in our lives mean so much to us that we’re afraid of doing anything that might hurt them, cause them pain, or cause them to leave us. Perhaps they’ve presented themselves as fragile and highly sensitive to feedback or pressure. Perhaps they’ve given us ultimatums. Their lack of trust enmeshes with our own lack of trust. Boundaries blur and before we know it, we’re avoiding authenticity and honesty in order to spare them or us any discomfort. In relationships with these types of dynamics, growth ceases for everyone involved, including the relationship.
The truth is, we choose to walk on eggshells. No one makes us. In some cases, we’re afraid because we’re living in the past, fearful that what happened then will repeat itself now. We choose to live in the past. We choose to feel afraid.
“Fear is not real. It is a product of thoughts you create. Do not misunderstand me. Danger is very real. But fear is a choice.” ~Will Smith, After Earth
We might choose to walk on eggshells because we don’t feel safe. Children often rely on eggshells for protection and safety; however, once adults, we are free to walk on solid ground in our relationships, if we choose too. If safety is an issue, you must seek professional support and assistance, and remove yourself, and children, if they are involved, from harm. Waiting for things to change could be risky and potentially dangerous.
If you’re walking on eggshells and growing weary of not living freely, it might be time to have an intimate conversation with yourself about fear and trust. Explore the fears that are influencing your openness to trust. What would need to happen to decrease your fears and increase your trust? If you woke up tomorrow and the eggshells were gone, what would have changed? What would be different?
Explore these questions using meditation, journaling, counseling, coaching, or other select practices. Dig deep to uncover inspirational awareness and insight. Remember that changing habits and behaviors takes practice and patience. Be kind to yourself, okay?
If you’re already working on walking on solid ground instead of eggshells, what practices are you using that are transforming your relationship with fear and trust? What successes are you having? What challenges are you experiencing? Feel free to share your thoughts and comments. I’d love to hear from you!
Sending you inspiration,