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Confidence and vulnerability.

Why is it scary to believe in yourself? Why is scary to tell yourself you can meet any challenge with commitment and grace? Why is it scary to imagine yourself getting what you want?

Perhaps I’m asking these questions for myself. Maybe very few people experience difficulty rallying confidence when facing change and opportunity, but I do. My confidence comes in waves. I wake up and tell myself I am in control of my life. I can do anything I want if I put the work in and stay open to learning. I can be great. Then a few hours later, one little thing tips the scale and I begin to wonder who I think I’m kidding. How did I fool others into believing in me? Maybe I don’t have it. Maybe I can’t do it. There I’ll be, staring at myself in some bathroom mirror at work, at home, at the gym, asking, “What are you so afraid of right now? Is failure? Or is it actually getting what you want?”

When I was kid, I was a terrible loser in sports. I had no sportsmanship. I had unreachable standards for myself in school as well. Nothing less than perfect was acceptable. Losing made me cry convulsively. Anything lower than an A- made me physically ill. In adulthood, I’ve worked on easing up on myself and finding the value in failure. Failure makes you look at yourself and see where you need to rise. Sometimes, it can show you what you did well even when everything fell apart. Failure can bury you, but ultimately it can allow you to re-focus and give yourself new purpose.

So that’s failure. What about success? What will I gain if I commit, focus, and have everything go my way? Sometimes when I think about success, whether it’s in my career or in martial arts, I feel this little jab of fear cut me in the ribs. Success comes with anticipation and expectation. Evidence predicts that you should be the best again. Stay at the top. Show it wasn’t a fluke. Show you earned it. Maybe that’s not so terrible. Maybe the scary thing is what I have to unleash in order to be successful. I have to let go of doubt and hesitancy. I have to show the side of myself who won’t compromise my instincts. I hold ferocity that I often try to suppress to make myself more palatable to others. But I have to let go of inhibition. Of course, this looks different in the world of social work than it does in grappling sports. I think it’s like a full assertion of your sense of self. It’s not hiding behind only the nice parts of yourself. It’s showing all of you at once.

I want a lot of things for myself. I have specific career goals that I am actively pursuing. I have a plan. I am dedicating this year to judo over jiu jitsu because I could feel myself shying away from judo since I’d run into some mental blocks. I want to bust through them. When you go after something you really want, you become vulnerable. That’s probably why failure hurts so much, because you made yourself vulnerable to the world and it didn’t work out. I think in order to show confidence, you have to embrace your vulnerability. Maybe vulnerability is the key to success.



  1. February 20, 2016 at 13:57

    Excellent post. I relate to all of this. I’ve missed your posts and hope you’re well.

    • February 21, 2016 at 09:49

      Thank you so much! I am glad we’re both writing. I know I felt pretty off all those months I was away. Take care!

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