Ever boxed? Gloves caging ears, my whole body tenses. Feet light in a known choreography, I await the blow you’ll land. Anxiety douses my vision, and I worry over where it will land. My ego is the most fragile punching bag of all. This is how power struggles feel. Only there is no ring, no gloves, no cheering crowd to direct me on how everything is going, and no rules.
I’m a bold presence, a loud woman, a bull in a china shop. This translates to alpha more than I’d like it to. I ask myself all the time if this is really me or armor I’ve protected myself with over the years. The answer that rises every time is that this is me. I do get scared. I fear over exposure, vulnerability on someone else’s terms. I don’t want to be taken advantage of, and here’s the thing: everyone else on earth struggles with the same thing.
There’s no way to connect with people with our dukes up. Nothing is scarier than being the first person to disarm. With soft elbows and no agendas, it takes courage to give voice to the rampant thoughts in our heads. Saying the thing makes it more real. Realness can lead to rejection, and there is no guarantee for reward.
In the past year, I’ve run through a lot of worst-case-scenarios. So what if people find out that I want the things I actually want? They can make fun of me, but am I really interested in the feedback of people who weaponize the softest wishes of other people. That means I’m not always going to be the most powerful — but honestly, I was never the most powerful anyway. Focusing on who has the upper hand distracts from investing in the moment.
Power struggles are based upon fear. “I need to show my dominance. I need to be sure. I cannot show weakness.” I don’t care if you see me weak. I don’t care if you make fun of me, because I’m kind of a clown sometimes! There is no big winner in life. We can’t be the alpha in every arena. The art of interaction lies in learning when to lead, when to follow, when to encourage, when to challenge, and when to rest. We are not all alpha nor beta nor delta nor something else.
My dukes sometimes reflexively shoot up. Years of vigilant self-protection do that. But I am no longer interest in sparring in places I’d rather be soft, and sometimes, I take a blow or two because the other person can’t meet me there. I don’t want to convince that person to meet me. That’s not the labor I’m interested in doing. My arms are heavy from guarding my head, and my body is tired. And now, so close to 27, I’m putting it all down. I’m open and unguarded, without expectation or agenda. The most powerful thing I can do in this moment is release control.