My last blog post got a response that made me terribly uncomfortable. If you haven’t read it, you can check it out here, but here’s the super short version: I was incredibly overwhelmed and felt the need to encourage women to lean on their people when they’re in need. The message was clear: If you need help, ask for it. So what were the responses that made me so uncomfortable? People offered me help.
I wasn’t explicitly asking for it… or even intentionally hinting at it. I’m not even sure I realized I needed it -- though it seems obvious now. I certainly wasn’t prepared to for it to be offered. I am so used to just figuring everything out on my own that I accept the old limiting dynamic even as I am preaching against it.
But there it was: help. My aunt insisted on bringing me overnight diapers, friends reached out to tell me to call them any time I need anything, and so many people told me they related to what I wrote (just helping someone realize they’re not alone is a truly an amazing act of kindness). I’m surrounded by opportunities to ask for and receive help. And I’ve come to realize that the real trick is accepting it.
Our culture has been celebrating the woman that can do it all for so long that we actually believe it’s possible. Nevermind the fact that none of us have ever met that unicorn in real life. We repeat the old phrase ‘it takes a village’ because we recognize the truth in it, but we don’t really practice it. We’re surrounded by images of women looking fabulous in their beautiful homes with their smartly dressed kids and huge smiles, and we know it’s not the whole story, but we really wish it was. After all, if the life depicted in that perfect snapshot was actually possible, then surely we can achieve it. And so we try. And then we beat ourselves up when we inevitably fail.
Or maybe, like me, you’ve stopped trying to attain that impossible Instagram life. Did it bring you any peace? Or did it just make you look harder at yourself? Did it make you start hiding the parts of your life that weren't insta worthy? Maybe if you just have a better mindset, meditate more, practice self care, exercise, go keto, have more alone time, join Audible, drink a whole pot of coffee or unwind with 5 bottles of wine at mom's night out, blah blah blah... then you’ll be able to handle real life better. Self optimization sounds like the answer, but it’s really just another part of the problem. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE self improvement, but it’s becoming another impossible goal: If I improve myself enough then I’ll be enough. THEN I’ll be worthy. THEN I can be vulnerable because THEN I won’t feel shame because I’m doing it all wrong.
The truth is that self improvement doesn’t have a finish line. It’s a forever endeavor. There will always be something you want to see changed and that doesn’t mean you’re failing. It means you’re living and trying and learning and growing. I believe that growth and expansion is why we’re here on this planet and so we have to embrace the struggles that force us to evolve with love and grace instead of resentment and frustration. Or shame.
So how does this pertain to accepting help? Well, I think the idea that perfection is attainable undermines the concept of asking for and accepting help. After all, if we need help it’s because we can’t do everything ourselves (the horror!). We think we’re doing something wrong if we can't do alllll the things and we don’t want anyone to see that we’re ‘failing’. Sure, we may joke about our messy house, admit that we’re stressed out, and throw #momfail around, but that’s not truly showing up and being vulnerable. I’m willing to bet we’re all hiding the full reality of our struggles. We all have something that we think is too shameful to admit and therefore we’re all closed off from the support that would actually help us overcome it.
I’m not exactly sure how to make asking for and accepting help any easier, but I know that the first step is being more open about our own struggles and being more available when we see another person struggling. Maybe the simple act of being more open and honest about ourselves to the people we trust will open more hearts and attract more support than we ever realized was available. And maybe the simple act of accepting help more often will make it possible to help others as well. Kindness is contagious.
How would your life be different if you got the help and support you really needed to thrive? What would you ask for?