“Don’t Shrink. Don’t Puff Up. Just Stand Your Sacred Ground.”

“Don’t shrink. Don’t puff up. Just stand your sacred ground.” -Brene Brown

When we are feeling anxious, insecure, criticized, ashamed, or threatened, we all have a default response to protect ourselves. Sometimes we shrink---make ourselves small, apologize when not at fault, hide our own needs/wants/feelings, or try to become invisible. Sometimes we puff up—become defensive, refuse to take responsibility, pretend to be something we’re not or “better” than those around us.

These are both understandable responses. We learned them for a reason and at some point in life, they kept us safe. But sometimes we find ourselves stuck in these patterns of response that keep us from staying true to ourselves, feeling seen in relationships, or being able to see the other person in the relationship. They keep us from being vulnerable, and without vulnerability we cannot experience authentic connection.

So, when these aren’t working for us, what do we do? How can we stay true ourselves, while also remaining soft enough to make space for other people in our lives to feel seen/heard?

We can stand our sacred ground.

Standing your sacred ground means that you allow yourself to be seen exactly as you are, without any need to hide or defend. It is a stance that says, “I am enough, just the way I am, even with my imperfections.” It means you can stay true to yourself and confident in who you are, even if someone doesn’t like you or what you have to say. It means that you don’t have to pretend to be something you’re not in order to be accepted. It means you can remain rooted in what you believe, while simultaneously seeking to understand another person’s position.

It also means owning your imperfections and having the courage to take responsibility for your mistakes, all while maintaining your sense of worthiness. It even allows for new information to shift your perspective, without feeling like you’re giving up yourself or “losing” in a zero-sum game. Sacred ground is firm, but it is not rigid.

When you stand your sacred ground, you also empower other people to be vulnerable and to allow themselves to be seen, exactly as they are. This paves the way for authentic connection in our relationships. It opens up room for deeper communication and knowing of each other.

Anytime I’m feeling unsure of myself or like I’m going into defense mode, I try to stop and whisper this to myself, “Don’t shrink. Don’t puff up. Just stand your sacred ground.” I find this quote to be very grounding for me. It brings me back into my truth. And I notice that as I let those words sink in, my heartbeat slows and the tension that builds in preparation to protect myself dissolves. I can just be my authentic self. Nothing to prove. Nothing to hide.

If it feels right for you, you might try whispering this quote to yourself in those times and just observing what happens.