Learning how to let go is a challenge.
We're taught to hold onto things: a hard-working mindset, values and those close to us.
What we're not told to hold onto is fear. We're supposed to let that shit go as quickly as possible.
We're told to achieve the most, be the best and try the hardest. We're supposed to go in on something hard and not stop until we come out with something to show for it.
Otherwise, we wasted our time, and nobody likes a time-waster.
In order to be the best and achieve the most, we have to allow ourselves to be at least a little bit vulnerable. Ironically enough, vulnerability isn't taught.
I'm good at following a list of things to do. What I'm not good at is knowing how the list should be read.
Vulnerability is the thing that tends to sweep us off of our feet and has the potential to either gently carry us into better place, or drop us into a pit with no way out.
Vulnerability does not discriminate. It sees no gender, color or size.
Virtually every one of us has the potential to experience it at just about any time (sometimes without us even knowing it until it's too late). There isn't a warning sign or yellow light telling you to slow down or to proceed with caution.
I'm not talking about the simple kinds of vulnerability, either. Not the “Sorry, girl. We just didn't think you'd like this party, so we didn't invite you” kind of vulnerability.
Not even the “Your card has insufficient funds” in front of a bunch of people at some upscale boutique after trying to buy organic hair product like an asshole.
I'm talking the cut-and-dry vulnerability. The kind where you either put yourself out there, or you don't.
The “Here's hoping I get my dream job” kind. The kind where you have no idea if the person you're sitting across from on a first date will like you. All you can do is smile and try to say the right things.
You have to put on a brave face, take the plunge and wait it out.
The only thing putting yourself out there and not doing so have in common is regret. And regret isn't exactly known for its comforting properties.
You have to literally place your thoughts, outlook and beliefs on a podium and just hope no one throws tomatoes in your direction simply because they're bored.
It's allowing other people to shape the outcome of circumstances. It's letting go of control and learning to be somewhat OK with that.
Vulnerability forces us to trust other people — oftentimes, people we don't know. You have no idea if they're good or bad. You don't know if they help the elderly cross the street or if they hate puppies.
There is no way to find out until you place your hand in theirs and wait to see if they let you fall when the ice gets thin, the cliff gets too narrow or some other metaphor I don't feel like creating.
Learning how to let go of the fear of vulnerability is not easy. In fact, I don't even think it's possible to completely rid yourself of that fear.
I just think once you're faced with something often enough, it becomes easier to look past it and focus on the next thing.
Thankfully, I was fortunate enough to discover “next thing” not too long ago. It goes by the name of assertiveness.
Being assertive can be tricky, especially when you're a woman. My assertiveness has the potential to be mislabeled as being “bitchy” at times simply because of who I am.
Consider it just one of the many upsides of my being female.
But luckily enough, being assertive holds the upside of telling those same people to stick it where the sun don't shine.
From that point forward, they will certainly remember the difference between my assertion and my being “a bitch". They can thank me later.
Assertiveness is seeing something you want and going for it. It's being strong and turning your vulnerability into confidence. It's lifting your head up when people doubt you. It's proving people wrong when they hold reservations toward your abilities.
Assertiveness is walking into a room full of people who were very clearly just talking about you and giving them another reason to speak your name. It's not allowing people to question your character.
I've changed my fear of vulnerability into an appreciation for assertiveness not because I'm running from something, but because I choose to. It is my choice, not yours, not hers and certainly not his.
Being caught up with a fear of vulnerability only keeps you back. Assertiveness keeps you moving forward and onto the next best thing.
Now I can do anything I want, and there isn't a damn thing anyone can do about it.