Protect Yourself


This is not a blog about safe sex. But, you should do it. Be safe I mean. And have sex.

Think about all the ways we protect ourselves. Safe sex is certainly one of them. Umbrellas and Gore-tex are useful—today it is raining buckets. When I went out this morning to Pilates I had the wrong coat—fleece. Not protected. Then in class, my lower back screamed at me “no thank you, not this move” so I eased off and stretched instead. Protected. Later, going to Costco with every other Saturday morning errand-runner, I had my Gore-tex. I was ready. But this is all basic stuff. Condoms, raincoats, listening to our bodies, it’s physical and tangible. Easy. Sometimes, the need for emotional protection is the toughest to recognize, the hardest to do and yet the most critical. I’d rather get soaked in a rainstorm than have my heart stomped on for no reason. Mind you, I’m not talking about being closed off to emotional intimacy which can lead to pain and growth, but rather of recognizing emotional toxicity and of running for cover, putting up the drawbridge, doing what it takes to protect yourself.

Author Cheryl Richardson uses the term “protect your sensitivity” and I like it. She talks about knowing what your hot buttons are and of proactively making sure they don’t get pushed. And why not? At a recent seminar I attended, she talked about a speech she gave after which she was mobbed by the audience with accolades. As she saw a lone woman approach her with a forceful stride and a frown, her hackles went up and when the woman said to her “I need to give you some constructive criticism,” Cheryl said “I don’t want to hear it.” She was protecting herself. She knew that even with the hundreds of people who had loved her talk; the so-called constructive criticism from this woman would hurt. It would be destructive. I am like this too. I am working on it, but I know myself well enough to know I can hear between lines that aren’t there. I can take heaps of praise and an ounce of criticism and like a dog with a bone, fixate on that criticism no matter the source or the validity. No matter what.

So in protecting myself, I also get to celebrate my sensitivity. Rather than de-sensitize myself, to stop seeing the nuance in relationships, perceive the subtlest of clues about what might be going on with myself and others, I chose to be sensitive. Sensitivity serves me well. I use it to be a better listener, friend, parent, wife, member of a larger community. But, I also get my feelings hurt easily. I am out there and sometimes being out there, I get hurt. So, I’m working on seeing the warning signs. My instinct is powerful if I listen to it and when something doesn’t feel right, when I feel worse rather than better after an event or an interaction, I’m going to protect myself.

Let’s all protect ourselves. Go out in the rain but wear a raincoat. Exercise but listen to your body. Have sex, damn it, but be safe. And open your heart but listen to your instinct. Protect your sensitivity. I know I will.


  1. I love, love, love this!


  2. Debbie Sweetland says:

    I’ve felt so similar that this summer I declared to become an introvert despite my extroverted nature. That didn’t work out so well for me. Protection good, stifling bad. Giddy ‘Yup! 🙂


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