Why is it that we’re all so quick to offer help, but so hesitant to admit we need help?
Last year, I asked my friend Jed to take a somewhat formal role as a mentor for me because I needed the accountability. The great thing about knowing you’ll be talking to someone regularly, specifically about yourself, is that it forces you to put words to whatever happened, and your reaction to it. Then they can give you a reality check, help you get some perspective, or call you out on your B.S., and that’s when the silver linings start to show. That’s what happened for me. Little by little, month by month, we sorted through the things I hadn’t been able to get past, the faulty beliefs that had come out of them, and the things I needed to change.
The other great thing about talking to someone regularly is that, on the really hard days, when you’re really close to the edge, they already know your story. My theme lately has been “come out of hiding,” partially because when we hide, things become larger and larger in our minds, and they begin to feel insurmountable. Maybe we worry people will think we’re crazy, or will judge us, or will try to give us oodles of unsolicited advice. Other things are just hard to admit. We worry that people won’t understand, or that they’ll say we’re making too big a deal of it, or that we brought it on ourselves. So we hold it inside, and then when the bad days come, we feel like we have no one to turn to, because it seems like too much to start from the beginning. We need people who know our stories, who can talk us down from the ledge in 5 seconds flat because they’re right there with us. That’s what Jed did for me that whole year. He knew my story and was totally unafraid of it. Totally judgment free. If he thought I was crazy, he handled it like a champ.
There’s a lot more to the story, of course. Truth be told, he was my wizard. I was out there following the yellow brick road looking for brains, courage and a heart. He knew I had them all along.
For the longest time, I’ve felt like the answers were right in front of me, but I couldn’t quite focus on them. I’m starting to think maybe I couldn’t see them because they weren’t in front of me. Maybe I already had everything I needed. I love this writing thing. Writing is completely overwhelming for me, but in the best possible way. I needed it. I needed something expansive, something that would get me outside my comfort zone. It keeps me asking, what’s next? What do I need more of? I don’t know that this will be my life’s work, but I’m learning and growing, and I want to keep doing it.
Here’s the problem: I feel guilty for having asked someone to invest that kind of time in me. The outcome is so different from what I thought it would be. It doesn’t look like being the quintessential busy bee I was used to being. I saw my value in sheer production, it was my identity, but behind the scenes, different things were coming together. Back when Jed was my boss, he gave me one of the most expansive assignments I’ve ever had, and it was good for me in so many ways, and through coincidence or fate, it was also the thing that led to me becoming friends with Dawn. If I weren’t friends with Dawn, I would never have heard of the Wild Heart Writers. It’s a weird, symbiotic thing, because I was the one who pulled the trigger first, who said to her “let’s do this thing,” and now we both are, and now she’s getting me even more involved, but none of it would have happened if I hadn’t become friends with her in the first place. It makes me think everything is unfolding as it should, so why the guilt?
I think what it comes down to is that I want there to be a very distinct correlation between effort and reward in life. I want a menu, with options and prices. I’ll put in the work, but I want a guarantee of the outcome. I’ve realized, of course, that this isn’t how the universe works, but if someone gives me effort, I want to offer reward.
On the other hand, if I offer help to someone, there’s not the slightest thought of wanting anything in return. I think that’s true for most people. I think the most beautiful examples of community are when people come together to overcome challenges, or when we’re there for one another in the difficult times. The value is intrinsic. It’s beautiful because it’s rare and special.
So, where does all of this lead me? One of the reasons I write is that I hope something I say will resonate with you so that you will feel less alone. Whatever it is that makes me feel guilty, it’s probably the same thing that keeps all of us saying “oh it’s OK” when someone offers to help us. I could be off, but I feel like of all the times I’ve offered help, I’ve only been taken up on a fraction of those offers. We’re all so quick to say “let me know if I can help,” but so hesitant to admit we need help. “It’s OK, I got this.” Are we afraid to depend on each other?
Where does this hesitancy come from? And what do we do with the disconnect between how we offer help and how we receive help?