“Walking on egg shells” refers to an adaptive behavior we employ to guard against feeling judged, criticized or ostracized.  When we are unsure of what is being asked of us or we are afraid to stir things up, stick our necks out, experience rejection, hurt someone’s feelings, appear stupid or because we really, really just want to be accepted, many of us resort to bringing a false self forward with hopes this strategy will “help us fit in.”  

 Consider this excerpt from The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown:

           Most of us use the terms fitting in and belonging interchangeably, and like many of you, I’m really good at fitting in.  We know exactly how to hustle for approval and acceptance.  We know what to wear, what to talk about, how to make people happy, what not to mention—we know how to chameleon our way through the day. 

            One of the biggest surprises in this research was learning that fitting in and belonging are not the same thing, and, in fact, fitting in gets in the way of belonging.  Fitting in is about assessing a situation and becoming who you need to be to be accepted.  Belonging, on the other hand, doesn’t require us to change who we are; it requires us to be who we are.

 Showing up as our authentic self can feel incredibly vulnerable. Our authentic self may have been rejected by a significant person in our early years-perhaps by a family member or teacher- and it is incredibly difficult not to let that pain influence all the potentially wonderful connections we can make in our lives. We have been in training since we were very young, learning what people approve of and what they reject. We then take that data forward into all our relationships trying to create a persona we think will “fit in”. It may not occur to us that some of the information we received was distorted, and so we never allow our authentic self shine. Being authentic is NOT always easy, but it the only way to truly belong.

 If you are in a relationship that requires you to “walk on egg shells” to “fit in”, consider if you are truly getting what you need from that connection.  It is valuable to recognize the difference between belonging and fitting in. Many of us may long for the former, but have settled for the latter.





  1. lisa on the 09. Oct, 2011 remarked #

    Love this… So true. The authentic self for some of us have been in hiding to protect ourselves in some cases since early childhood. It does take practice to tune in to your authentic self but it is worth it.
    Don’t judge yourself when you fall back into those old ways, be proud that you recognized it and practice, practice , practice

  2. CJ Golden on the 09. Oct, 2011 remarked #

    Ah, but first we have to know who are true authentic selves are. That is the hard part – and the part that takes a lifetime of study and pursuit to discover!

    • admin on the 09. Oct, 2011 remarked #

      True. We need to give up the notion of fitting in order to experience belonging. Authencity creates the opportunity of belonging and belonging nourishes authenicity.

  3. Marilyn on the 10. Oct, 2011 remarked #

    I see this as a perfect subject for a retreat. We could really look at how we present ourselves to others and how much we are not allowing our authenic self to be seen. This would help with self-esteem and confidence and could go a long way to making a difference.

  4. Marilyn on the 10. Oct, 2011 remarked #

    Good Subject. You should consider a retreat and call it
    “Walking of Egg Shells”

    • admin on the 10. Oct, 2011 remarked #

      Good idea. Let’s see how others feel about it. Thanks!!!

  5. Elliot on the 23. Oct, 2011 remarked #

    I would like to know the origin of the expression “walking on egg shells” anyone know when and where that originated?

    • admin on the 23. Oct, 2011 remarked #

      I could not find the exact origin but it refers to having to behave in a certain way as to not upset a particularly volatile/sensitive person. Similar expressions are “walking on thin ice” or “tiptoe around them”. All infer extreme changes to one’s behavior in an attempt to do the impossible. If anyone know the origin, I would also be interested.

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