The first time I heard the term "alpha female," I was 17 years old and living in suburban hell.
Because I didn't wear pink velvet Juicy Couture sweatsuits, wore black over-the-knee boots instead of Ugg boots and voiced my political views during "social studies" class, I was deemed an "alpha female" pretty quickly.
If being an alpha female meant thinking for myself and being vocal about my thoughts and feelings, I was happy to run with that reputation.
Plus, I like the way "alpha female" rolled off my tongue. I still do. It makes me think of a fabulous female primate, scaring off the weak boy primates with her fierce prowess.
During the spring of my junior year, I left for a teen tour of Europe and hooked up with a girl. Suddenly, my strength was put to the test.
I felt like putty in her hands. I felt electric bolts of lust that were so powerful, I was worried my insides were going to explode.
But I would never tell her how I felt.
Instantly, I understood the plight of the alpha girl: We are naturally guarded entities, and it's damn near impossible crack us. Even when we're consumed by a person and even when the pressing weight of a crush feels so heavy, we still won't open up.
I spent about 25 years of my life never opening up to anyone. I was always the strong one — the tough, cold bitch who just didn't feel things.
That is, until I had a nervous breakdown, went to therapy and learned that even ~alpha females~ need to let their guards down sometimes.
So if you're feeling overwhelmed with your emotions, but you're scared to open up, then here is your guide to letting your guard down:
Get over playing it cool.
Playing it cool never works to your advantage in the game of love.
See, internally, I was a nervous wreck around this girl. I had all the typical crush anxieties around her: dry mouth, inability to think straight and paralyzing fear that her feelings weren't reciprocated.
But I always played it cool. I had a shit storm of crazy emotions swirling inside of me all of the time, but to the outside world, I remained totally calm.
I never once told this girl that images of her haunted my brain at night. I never bestowed her with warmth, even though all I wanted to do was wrap my legs around hers and stay like that forever.
I experienced so many earth-shattering feels, and I still played it cool, babe, because that's the alpha girl way. We hold back all of our romantic impulses out of fear of not being cool.
And you know what? The girl broke up with me after the second week of our trip and started hooking up with a different girl, and I was left heartbroken.
Years later, I ran into her at a party in New York, and I drunkenly asked her why she broke up with me.
"You didn't even like me," she slurred to me.
See where I'm going, kittens? Our fierce alpha girl attitude can sometimes stop us from experiencing the wildest romances. And I missed out on probably the most epic teen love story I could've ever experienced because I was playing it cool.
Don't freak out when other people freak out.
Alpha girls serve as the pillar of strength to all of our friends, and we take that role very seriously.
We never learned to lean on anyone. And when we do occasionally ask for help, our friends freak out because they've never seen us as multifaceted human beings with vulnerabilities.
Since we alpha girls don't like seeing our friend's freak out, we put our walls right back up. Our role is to quell the freak out, not create it.
Once, I was recovering from a bad breakup, and I was dealing with it in the healthiest way possible — getting blackout drunk at the gay club. I was also the den mother of my group of friends.
But this particular night, I broke down. All the shots and champagne had cracked my shell. My friend Matty* found me curled up in a ball on the bathroom floor, crying my eyes out.
"You can't fall apart, Zara! We need you," he said.
For a moment, I could feel the steel walls building up around me. But for whatever reason, I took a deep breath and said, "I'm falling apart. I don't even want to exist anymore. I need you to be here for me."
And at that moment, I saw a great change in Matty. I finally let him in, and he stepped up to the plate.
That's when I realized, if you want to get close to people, friends or lovers, you have to explain to these people that, yes, you're a boss bitch. But you're a boss bitch with feelings, and sometimes, you need to be hugged like everyone else.
Stop being so terrified of rejection.
Alpha females like to win, and we're fiercely competitive.
This makes us highly successful women in business, but losers in love (cliché, I know). We don't ever throw ourselves on the line because we're so afraid our lovers will reject us.
Yes, this does put a chokehold on meeting someone amazing, but it also stops us from experiencing heartbreak.
It's important that every human being experiences a dramatic, painful heartbreak at least twice in their lives. We learn so much about ourselves when it happens. We tap into a vulnerable, deep, soulful place, and we look at our lives through a different lens.
Ultimately, we become more soulful, and it's impossible to be sexy without being soulful.
I'm sad for all the alpha females who've never experienced heartbreak. Life is 50 percent pain and 50 percent beauty, and you can't see one without the other, you know?
Remember, you can be tough and vulnerable at the same time.
I don't know why we always think we either have to be strong and fierce or weak and vulnerable. Honestly, that's bullshit.
You can be the baddest, fiercest, most ferocious alpha female in the world and still be vulnerable.
Real strength is seen in letting those guards down. It's understanding that pouring your heart out but not getting your desired reaction won't kill you.
When you have a strong core, you know that nothing (except death) can take you down forever.
So drop those guards, baby. The more rejection, pain and heartache you let inside your heart, the more love, beauty and deep connections you'll let in with it. You can't experience all these amazing feelings without letting in the sad feelings, too.
And most importantly, these feelings won't kill you. However, living a guarded, suppressed life will kill your spirit, and an alpha spirit is too amazing to die.
*Name has been changed.