you don’t have to do hard things

20th February 2020

A few days ago I about feeling really really low this winter.

I’ve realised that when I most need help, asking for it is the last thing I feel capable of.

And having the tools and resources, knowing what might help, can feel extra shitty when I just haven’t the energy or the will to do those things.

It was hard to share and honestly, I’ve been tempted to delete it every day since.

But so many people commented and sent messages and emails sharing their experience. I haven’t been able to reply to everyone but I noticed a really interesting theme emerging.

Many of us grew up as ‘the strong one’ in our families, or we’ve spent years ‘leaning in’ at work (just like Aunty Sheryl told us to).

We keep a load of complex logistics in our minds (what kid needs to get where, by when, what their friend can’t eat, we need bin bags, Barbara from Accounting has a birthday next week…). Anyone employed in the public sector in the UK hasn’t had a pay rise in a decade of Tory government.

This is before we get to the specific muck and bullets of your own unique and wondrous life.

All of this requires a shit tonne of resilience.

Resilience is the ability to do hard things and to bounce back from adversity.

Its one of those qualities everybody says we all need more of.

I have spent more than 40 years priding myself on being resilient. ‘I can handle it’ has been a cornerstone of my identity. And it hasn’t been created in a vacuum – developing this capacity has meant I’ve received squillions of strokes and rewards from every aspect of my life.

But the last few months of feeling very much under-par, have opened me up to the idea that resilience is waaaaay over-rated.

I’ve been noticing the beliefs I hold that are rooted in ideas about resilience:

  • I should be able to handle all of this.
  • Other people can’t meet my needs.
  • No one is coming to rescue me, so just get on with it.
  • Asking for help means people will see me differently.
  • Asking for help means I’ll have to take care of people who see me as ‘strong’.
  • They’ll do the helping wrong.
  • Use humour to deflect from my needs.
  • Being low-maintenance is the best thing I can be (in relationships).
  • It’s safer to rely on myself.
  • Do not disappoint anyone.
  • Hide from everyone and wait for this annoying neediness to pass.
  • You just need a new goal.

Sound familiar?

(nb: these beliefs may be particularly relevant if your is (like me) Conductor, Alchemist or Reformer).

While there is no doubt resilience is a useful quality to cultivate, we can overplay it to the point of exhaustion.

Research shows that too much resilience warps our view of adversity and stress.

We lose the capacity to know when enough is enough.

This is particularly true if we have been rewarded for our capacity to absorb more stress, more adversity (definitely my experience).

We are not lacking resilience, we are lacking self-compassion.

We need to allow time and space to recover and refresh, to acknowledge our needs, to ask for help. And if you’ve never learned to value this off switch, of course, it’s going to feel like arse when you try!

I’m learning to figure out what enough is. To slow down. Do less. Soften into this vulnerability. Share my needs. Ask for help. To be with what is here, now.

And this feels dangerous because I am risking all of my resilience-based beliefs coming true. But maybe these beliefs are made of bullshit? I’ll never know unless I try something different.


If you are well-practised at doing hard things, then self-compassion maybe your growth edge. Consider:

  • What do you worry about or fear might happen if you stop being the strong one?
  • How do you get your needs met?
  • Are there risky or unhealthy ways you have sought to alleviate stress?
  • What is your relationship to compassion?
  • If you had a week off and unlimited funds, what would you do?



Hello, I'm Sas Petherick. I'm a self-doubt researcher, coach and podcaster who helps thinking humans transcend self-doubt. If you'd like to receive these posts in your inbox please subscribe here (with bonus info and first notice of opportunities to work with me). PS: I totallyInstagram - join me there?


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