what I’m (somewhat reluctantly) learning, about asking for help

January 17, 2017

Rex: the original lone wolf.

From a mildly troubling encounter to a full-blown crisis, my default response has always been to brace myself and cope. Alone.

I’m so used to noodling around issues for days; I’m the Mistress of the Pro-Con List, I take long contemplative baths, I journal my tits off.

Only when I’ve decided exactly how I’m going to tackle that bad boy, do I involve anyone else.

Then I can talk about the problem with the solution, and it’s all tied up in a nice tidy bow.

I can convince myself that everything is handled and my people continue to see me as having all my shit together.

The last 18-months has been an on-going experiment in trying not to do this. Because I was getting so damn good at it, I found myself feeling increasingly lonely.

I realised I was trying to avoid dwelling too long in doubt, confusion, longing or fear.

I was also protecting myself from the risk of being vulnerable and uncertain in front of another human *breathes into paper bag*.

And this meant I was unwittingly denying anyone who loves me, the opportunity to offer support, a helpful perspective or just a waaay better solution that I can come up, fretting alone in my rose oil bath.

I explained this to my dear friend Sarah, who responded (dead-pan, as she sipped her tea), that she never thought I was that together anyway. This is why I love her.

If your response to a difficult problem, new opportunity or confused idea is to sort it out before you loop anyone else in, this probably sounds very familiar.

I’ve learnt that coping alone is not at all heroic – it takes real courage to ask for help.

And there are huge payoffs. Ergo:

  • Just before Christmas, a really difficult and unresolvable thing happened in my family. On a long walk with Mr P, I shared my fears and sadness and allowed him to offer comfort and another point of view. By the time we got home, I felt less alone, less afraid and less attached to whatever might happen.
  • In sharing half-formed ideas and messy thoughts with my trusty business advisors, I have seen a path through the weeds to creating a new programme (and writing a book to accompany it). This is my big project for the year and it feels so bloody thrilling! Having jettisoned the idea that I need to do this alone, I have a sense of excitement and peace around the creation process. It’s a universe away from my usual mode of ‘obsessively working alone and procrastiphaffing as if it were a religion’.
  • Working with my own coach over the last few months is helping me to integrate ideas, experiences, memories and dreams that have felt too ephemeral to grasp, let alone make sense of on my own. It is turning into an unexpected voyage into myth and spirit and divine bone-level memory.

I’m convinced that all of us need people to do this life thing.

It could mean sharing a dilemma with someone you trust, bouncing ideas around with a colleague over Skype. It might mean investing in support from someone you respect.

This will probably feel uncomfortable and vulnerable and it might not result in a rainbow of neat solutions every single time.

But it all adds up to feeling less alone.

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