I had trouble drawing my sketch and writing my thoughts coherently, for this prompt since I read it a couple of days ago. I knew what I wanted to draw to represent the word ‘fierce’ and I knew exactly what I wanted to say. However, I’d never drawn a lion before and, on top of that, I had some writer’s block too. I tried a few times to start the sketch but it wouldn’t take shape the way I wanted it to. I did a lot of erasing and had to sharpen my pencil many times. I wanted to draw a lion that looked like a creature to be feared, instead of a stuffed animal but that’s not an easy thing to do when you’re not an accomplished artist.
Why the words wouldn’t come is a different and very personal matter. What I was trying to truthfully articulate is something I’ve struggled with in my life: putting on a façade to appear tougher than how I feel because I don’t want others to know that their attempts to wound me have landed with painful accuracy. As a woman, I’ve done that repeatedly to push through and past situations, while pushing away the someone(s) who felt they had the right to betray my trust or recklessly harm me. I did it so many times that it became second nature, while showing what I truly feel and how deeply I feel it became gruelling work.
I assume we all like to believe that we are or can be fierce when a situation makes it necessary. I say “necessary” because the human body’s nervous system is not designed to be on constant alert. Being fierce at all times requires a hyper-vigilance that takes a toll on one’s body and mind. We are designed to sense danger, get ourselves to safety, then shut down that alert system so our bodies return to a (relative) state of calm. Moreover, the measures needed for keeping out the bad, mean not allowing enough of the good to find its way through; and it can be exhausting to keep this cycle going.
My fierce demeanor was so well-practiced I could probably teach how-to classes and make a fortune. First, there’s the posture one must take where your back and shoulders are held with such stiffness your body oozes aloofness and an air of I don’t give a f…, which may send a message that feelings – if it’s believed one has any – can’t be accessed or hurt. Then there’s the sharp cutting glance that takes years to master and to an untrained eye may resemble the batting of an eyelash. The sender must make sure the receiver feels the whittling sharpness of the look to their core in an instant. While the accompanying words – their calculated pitch and timing between them – further build the effect of an impenetrable stone structure that towers protectively above one’s physical frame.
Many years ago, I had to look at my life and figure out how well this strategy was working for me. The primary question being: Was my fierce demeanor attracting the people and the experiences I wanted in my life? If it wasn’t, what did I have to change? Although, I didn’t have to overwrite who I was completely, it took years for me to unlearn and untangle myself from these exhausting self-protective practices. Furthermore, the work is ongoing because there is no single action or magic pill that can give you everything you want overnight.