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What’s the Bigger Risk: Building Your Walls or Kicking Them Down?

We build walls and fortresses around us in so many ways. What happens if we chose not to build those walls? What happens when we surrender?

July 24, 2017, - Download PDF

Tiara Breaking Down Walls Copyright: imagelight / 123RF Stock Photo

I once attended one of those particularly touching weddings that leaves you floating on a cloud of love and possibility. The father of the bride said something that forced me to stop and catch my breath. He said we must be ‘willing to surrender our fortressed selves.’


It struck me how many ways we have to build fortresses around ourselves. The possibilities are endless: our handheld technologies, our busy-ness, our work, the internet, the full season of Arrested Development queued up on Netflix (and y’all know I haven’t even scratched the surface).

So what would happen if we chose not to build those walls? What happens when we surrender? What is possible when we let down the drawbridge and give those alligators in our moat the day off? What is the bigger risk? Closing off or opening up?

My recent favorite read is Brené Brown’s “Daring Greatly.”

Brené graciously allows us to better understand and deal with the issues of shame that we all experience in big and small ways over the course of our lives. It’s this shame that provides a perfect motivation to build those walls.

Initially I didn’t think I had issues with shame or vulnerability. Hadn’t those years of personal growth courses and yoga and therapy cured me of shame issues? Wouldn’t most of my friends and peers agree that I’m an open book…’shameless’ even?

Little did I realize how tricky this little thing called ‘shame’ can be. Nor did I realize how subtly we can protect ourselves from taking healthy risks, even the smallest of risks in order to protect ourselves from looking silly or foolish.

Stop and think about your past week. Were there moments when you cheated yourself out of taking a risk?

Maybe you weren’t fully honest with a co-worker. Maybe you didn’t make that call that could lead to a new client. Maybe you weren’t fully open with your partner when they asked you how you’re doing.

What held you back? Let’s rephrase that … What really held you back?

What would allow you to take that risk next time?

It could be as simple as taking two minutes to listen to Queen sing “We will. We will rock you.”

It could be taking 5 luxuriously deep breaths.

It could be getting enough sleep so you are in top form for your day.

Sometimes we just need a wee bit of encouragement. It’s surprising how one simple act of self-care can open up a new possibility.

No matter how tall we’ve built those walls, we can bring them down.

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The Author

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Melissa Thornley

Melissa is a veteran creative business professional.  She’s written, produced and managed creative teams in Chicago, New York, and London.  Her background is in the advertising and film world where she led two of the top internationally recognized editorial and post production companies, the Whitehouse Post and Beast-Company 3-Method Studios. She has produced award-winning work with advertising agencies from Japan to Amsterdam to Austin, TX whose clients include McDonald’s, Walgreens, Anheuser Busch, Nike, Capital One, Coca-Cola and PBS.

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