What’s On Your Helmet?
I love my life.
The struggles and challenges.
The triumphant and the celebrations.
When I was younger, I was bold and fearless. I did things others were afraid to do. I wasn’t afraid because I didn’t know I was different. Then I started school and learned I had many learning disabilities. They told me I would never make it through school because I was to stupid.
You can see the joy and zest for life on my face. Then you can see it start to dim as I am told by others who I am and what I am to become. Because of my youth and trust in adults, I believed them at first. I came to believe that I wasn’t enough, and I started to shrink back and play small. As you can see, I am not small.
I’m grateful for growing up on a farm because I found pleasure in taking care of the animals. They never judged me or made fun of me. They were always happy to see me because I fed and cared for them. Bucking hay, carrying grain, and buckets made me strong and I developed some big guns for a young girl.
Since I couldn’t excel in academics, I choose to embrace my size. I learned to push my body physically. What better place to do that than in the Army where physical strength was encouraged? My goal was to get a perfect score on the men’s physical fitness test. I was usually within a few points of doing so.
I enjoyed basic training when it was over; however, the time spent in training was extremely difficult. One day stands out in my memory and that was the day I got to throw a live hand grenade. Blowing things up is fun for me and that was a huge explosion.
Because I was platoon leader, I got to go first. Being the leader had nothing to do with my skill and everything to do with my height. You could say I stand out in a crowd. I was taller than some of my instructors, eye to eye with others, and looking up to a few.
The drill instructor that taught me how to throw the practice grenade was slightly shorter than I. He taught me the step by step moves to properly release and cover, so I was safe while meting out damage to the enemy. After he was satisfied with my new abilities to safely throw and take cover, he took a large piece of caulk and drew something on front my helmet. Then sent me on down range to the live grenade range.
At first, I thought the instructor was standing inside a four-foot-thick wall, but as I got closer, I realized he was standing inside a stall with six inches of concrete protecting him from the blast of the grenades. I approached him on the run and joined him in the bunker. He looked at my helmet. Stepped back and handed me the explosive device. I went through the steps I had just learned and received a “go” for the event. Then I proceeded behind a ten-foot-thick by ten-foot-high wall of dirt that had windows in it for viewing the grenade range.
As my company processed through the exercise, the number of us behind the earthen wall grew and we were approaching the end of our training. Suddenly we saw “Private Smith” running up the lane with two big eyes drawn on the front of her helmet. Something we had never seen before. When she stepped into the bunker with the drill instructor, he did not step back as he handed her the live grenade.
Private Smith started performing the steps with the trainer very close to her. We had not seen this behavior before, so we watched with heightened curiosity. Private Smith pulled the pin caulking the explosive mechanism but instead of throwing it down range she dropped it in the bunker at their feet.
The DI acted with supreme agility. He grabbed her lifting her up and throwing her over the wall and then jumping into the next bunker covering her with his body as the world around was obliterated. We on the other side of the wall stood transfixed as debris hit our tiny window and shook the ground. As the dirt settled we realized what the chalk drawn eyes on her helmet had meant. They had been a code from one trainer to another. A message of warning. They said danger be careful with this one.
Several things happened very quickly upon our realization of what the eyes meant. First, we wanted to know what was on our helmets. Second, we forgot we had completed the exercise successfully. Third, we had a bully between our ears telling us we weren’t good enough. That we wouldn’t make it unless we had been found worthy by someone else.
We forgot what we had done. We forgot we had successfully completed the task at hand. We forgot our abilities and worried about what someone else thought of us. We allowed the voices in our heads to create fear and uncertainty.
It wasn’t until years later I came to recognize the bully between my ears and the damage it was doing. I have had the privilege of sharing my bully proofing you message with many others. I have learned to see the bully between their ears by looking into their eyes. Some many have allowed the bully to take their joy and contentment away.
We have allowed our inner bullies to stop us from reaching our full potential. Well, no more. Not on my watch. You must learn how to tame the bully between your ears so you can live a more productive and enjoyable life.