Hi, my name is Erin. I'm a recovering "I don't need any help" person. I've been uncomfortable receiving and asking for help as long as I can remember. My whole life I've been a person who thought I was being strong by doing everything on my own, even if it meant doing it with struggle.
If someone offered me assistance, before even pausing to think, my answer would always be a firm "No thanks, I'm okay." I wouldn't even accept a glass of water if I'd hiked 50 blocks across town to an appointment, clearly parched with a bead of sweat visible on my upper lip. If someone told me I looked like I needed a hug, I was hard on myself for being weak. Aahhh no! Please don't give me a hug. I'm really ok. Knowing well I could actually use a well intentioned and caring squeeze.
I wasn't comfortable with others going out of their way for me, or offering their care. I'm okay, always, really! I'm an independent woman who needs nothing from anyone. I desired to appear as if I had it all together at all times. From what I'm told, I was pretty convincing.
The recovery from my affliction began last year when I found myself on the floor in a pile of self-pity and tears after a move, in which I had once again declined the help of anyone, besides the movers I had paid. A yoga teacher of mine once said two of the most stressful things to go through in our western world are moving and divorce, and having done both I can agree.
Luckily, the divorce only happened once, but the moving has occurred somewhere around nine times. Nobody should go through either without receiving some kind of support. I was close to having a complete and utter breakdown, when I went through an incredibly traumatizing marriage/divorce saga which all took place within a year and a half.
I never could bring myself to reach out and asked for support during this difficult time, and often painted a happy face on to the outside world when inside all I really wanted was a shoulder to cry on. A few people did offer, but I was unable to even let anyone know that I did cry or that I fell apart every night when I got home.
Now, if I was to embark on somewhere around my ninth move in forced solitude, I thought I would completely lose my marbles. This time I was going to have to learn to ask my pride to step aside and reach out to receive some help and comfort when I truly was in need.
So, curled in my own little sobbing pile, among piles of stuff that needed to either be assembled or stuffed into the things that needed to be assembled, I finally reached for my phone and dialed a lifeline. It's not that nobody had offered to come over and help me get organized -- or at least come have a cup of tea or glass of wine to ease the stress of doing it with me.
It was that I had turned them all down because I didn't want to feel I owed anyone anything, and I constantly needed to prove to myself that I was completely self-sufficient. I dialed the phone and within hours my friend was there with his drill and furniture assembly skills, whistling away and piecing my bed together in minutes, when I had struggled with it for hours before. He noticed my puffy eyes and smeared mascara and asked why I hadn't called sooner.
The next night I called a girlfriend back that had offered to help me arrange my new closet, and to my surprise it actually made things easier. And she was happy to do it. Who knew! Instantly, my stress level went down and I felt good knowing I had people in my life who would give to me so generously. This experience made me want to get better at this "asking for and receiving help" business, and find out what was preventing me from being able to do so.
I enlisted the help of therapists, yogis, intuitive bodyworkers, rebirthers, meditators, acupuncturists and new friends. People in this new community started saying things to me like, "How can I support you?" Huh? What did that even mean? Support me? It scared the hell out of me and made me feel uncomfortable. What if they didn't go away? What if they smothered me? What if they truly saw all the issues I really had? What if they were only doing it out of obligation?
Asking for emotional support made me feel like a helpless little girl, and that was something I never ever in a million years wanted people to think I was. However, it was also preventing me from experiencing true intimacy in my relationships with others. If you look at that word closely, "into me you see" is another way to interpret it. Someone seeing the true self inside of me was something I shuttered to think about. They may see that there really was a girl who couldn't do it all on her own.
But like an onion, and with many hours of counseling and group workshops, layers of my stubborn self were peeled back and I began to slowly learn how to receive support, help and love. At the beginning, I was only able to receive from those I had paid, like therapists or life coaches. However, when I started to realize they found supporting me rewarding, I stepped outside of my comfort zone and slowly began to let friends and family help me too. And then, I actually began to ask people for it.
Last week, I had to leave for a long work trip on a whim and didn't get half of my to-do list done. I kindly asked a precious friend if she wouldn't mind doing the few things that I hadn't finished before I left. She's someone who I'd happily helped with some errands when she was in the same situation so I didn't think she would mind. Her reply was even better than that. She actually thanked me for letting her do something helpful for me. What an incredible friend.
It made me think of how many times I've cheerily done something nice for someone I loved, a friend or a stranger. It made me feel good inside, and that was just as much a gift for me as it was for them. I still have moments of discomfort when I have to ask for help or explain that I am in need of something. When this feeling arises, I turn the tables and think of how happy I would be standing in the other person's shoes with the ability to help me out and do something nice out of the kindness of my heart.
True meaningful relationships between humans can't be had unless giving and receiving are done in equal parts on both ends. Being able to receive directions when you're lost, a gift, a glass of water or a warm embrace from another person is just as much a joy for you as it is for them. Trust me, most people really do enjoy giving. If a person is unable to be vulnerable or ask and receive, you are actually depriving people around you the opportunity to do something that will make them feel good about themselves too.
So, next time you are hesitant to ask for something when you truly need it, consider the thought that you are contributing to the cyclical beauty of give and receive. Give someone the chance to feel how rewarding it feels to do something nice.
Now, who wants to rub my feet? I've had a long day.