A Thought On Communication, Vulnerability & Risk

Intro: The last couple of years have been one hell of a roller coaster. I have learned a lot. And "a lot" feels like an understatement, but I can't think of a better word right now. Honestly...truly, I've experienced lots of things since 2014. I feel like I've learned many life lessons that are worth sharing. But, not all at once of course. I'll save that for my book (TBA 2037).*

Today, I just wanted to share one or three things I've learned about self expression & communication. This is a topic I've been struggling with for several years, but recently (finally!) had a real breakthrough.**

Back Story

In high school, I was really into this girl, like realllllly into this girl. I had no problem expressing my feelings to her. I was soft & mushy, emotional, etc. Then, the relationship came to a close while away at school & it wasn't what I'd call very pleasant. After a tough summer, I returned back to university with a vengeance. Ya boy bounced back.

Fast forward a bit, I met a new girl, we started dating & that's when I started noticing I wasn't all that good at expressing myself or my feelings. Even though I knew I trusted this girl more than anyone else in the world, I still struggled with opening up to her. Later, I realized it was a thing called "vulnerability" that I was avoiding. I rejected my own thoughts & feelings. In turn, I came off like a ginger who had no soul. After my previous relationship, I had built a wall, a huuuuge wall, believe me, Trump would have paid to see this wall. To be clear, although I started to recognize the problems I was having, I didn't fully understand it at the time. Now, in retrospect, I can articulate what I was experiencing. At least... I think so.

Now we're talking end-of-college & transitioning into "real life." After some self-reflection, I realized I started to slip into what I believe to be a depression, but I was great at hiding it (at least, I think so?). At the time, I didn't think I was depressed... I've always thought "that doesn't happen to me, that happens to other people." I was feeling lots of bad things: self doubt, lack of confidence, lack of motivation, unhappy with myself, etc. It all turned into a vicious cycle that wasn't getting me anywhere.

Side note: Mental health is important. These problems are real & happen to all of us at varying degrees. We often deny what we're feeling or experiencing because we don't think that stuff happens to us. We're kinda egocentric.***

I was with the same girl and by this time she had definitely recognized my inability to express myself and be vulnerable because she pointed it out to me regularly. And, when she did, my defense mechanism would usually go into effect. I would shut down, deny and reject even harder. Unfortunately, she got the brunt of it. Eventually, our relationship came to a close, but I still think she's one of the most amazing human beings I've ever met. Before the end of our relationship, I knew it was a problem that I needed to work on, but... how? Unfortunately, I don't think there's any quick fix. For me, it took time, self-reflection, meditation, and...well, living. Like they say... Ya live & ya learn.

Now we're getting to the good stuff.

Recently, I finally had the epiphany (or wake up call?) I've been needing. I can't say the timing was all that convenient, but hey, it is what it is. Life happens the way it wants and it can be very difficult to accept, but we don't always have much of a choice. That's why I'm writing this... if someone were to read this and relate, that would be awesome.

So, how did this wake up call happen?

Basically: One day, I found myself thinking (almost obsessively) about all these things I wanted to say to someone. I wanted to be open and honest. I wanted to share my thoughts & feelings. And, I was debating with myself whether I should or shouldn't, with a strong lean towards "shouldn't." This was my inner defense mechanism telling me to shhh, lock it up & throw it away. I was afraid of sounding dumb, desperate, or receiving some sort of harsh rejection. Then, I basically said f*ck it. I'm reaching out, I'll risk it. 

Ultimately, it felt like a weight was lifted & I don't feel plagued with regret. I realized that if I had decided not to reach out and express myself, there's a good chance the other person wouldn't have an accurate understanding of my feelings. Most people can't read your mind & if you don't communicate effectively, you're leaving a whole lot to be determined by the other person. Miscommunication & misunderstanding is pretty much the core to every problem in the world. So, don't want to be misunderstood? Express yourself. Be clear, open, honest, and direct.

Joe and I were discussing this while chillin' in the alcove, drinking Dunkin per usual. He mentioned something that really resonated with me: We often make decisions based on risk and reward but, really, we should be weighing risk and regret. If you're debating on whether or not to do something, just ask yourself: "When I look back on this, will I regret not doing it, or at the very least, trying?" This applies to almost everything in life... relationships, business, life changes, etc. If you feel like you might regret not doing whatever it is...you need to do it. Even if you get rejected or fail, you tried & that's what matters. You'll get the answer and you aren't stuck with thinking "what if..." or "I wish..." Trust me, regret is way worse than failing or rejection. Regret is that thing that will linger in the back of your mind and pop up every once in a while when you least expect it.

The moral of this experience is that communication and vulnerability go hand in hand. If you care about someone & they mean something to you, communicate. Your mind will thank you later.

Give me more

Here's a less intimate example: If I move to NYC, I might have a really hard time paying the bills, my standard of living may go down a few notches, and I'll probably need to sell my car. But, if I don't, I'll never know what could have happened if I moved to NYC. Risk & regret. I'm willing to risk the temporary pains if it means a life changing experience.

Last thought: I finally knocked down my metaphorical wall (at least I think I've taken a pretty good chunk out of it). I realized that expressing myself by communicating directly, I feel way better than keeping it all in. How and what you communicate is fully within your control—the reaction or response from the world is outside of it. "Control what you can, let go of what you cannot." - not quoted by anyone, but I'm sure someone significant said it. My homie Bunzie mentioned this to me back in early 2016 & I remember how it really changed my perspective. For my specific situation, even though the circumstances aren't what I wanted, at least I made a clear effort to communicate my thoughts. At this point, that's all I can do and I have to accept life as it is.

In summary: Taking the risk to communicate your thoughts & feelings = you'll be much happier.

Whew! If you made it to the end, congratulations. And, I really appreciate it. Feel free to send me feedback & follow me on Instagram & Snapchat: ASWolfe91

*Did you catch the Joanne The Scammer reference? If not, you need to get hip.
**Update: This actually took a long time to articulate & took several days to write.
***It's ok to reach out for help. I haven't seen a therapist yet, but I know people who have, and I've looked into it myself.