So many women I know, me included, feel gut-wrenchingly uncomfortable receiving help. Most of us would rather struggle all day, all year, or for decades than ask someone for help. It isn’t even just asking for help that is the issue. Honestly, someone can offer over and over to support, help, or give and we’d rather die than receive what they have to offer.
I remember one time when I was 15. I was walking to my job at the fried chicken place down the road. It was 100+ degrees outside and I was sweating through my chicken uniform before my long shift was about to start. Not a good position to be in… who wants to buy chicken from a sweaty teenager?! Anyway, my friend’s dad pulled up next to me on his way home from work and offered me a ride in the nice cool AC of his car for the final 5 blocks down the street. He was more than willing to take me, and what did I say? “No thank you, I’m ok”. I think I remember this moment because of the look on his face. He looked at me like I was crazy. And honestly, looking back it was really crazy. I knew my friend’s dad very well. I was comfortable with him and I needed to show up at work not looking like I had just run a marathon. But what did I do? I smiled and was super polite and said no. He eventually drove away and I finished the 5 blocks to work needing to go spend some time under the air dryers in the bathroom before starting my shift.
There are countless times since then that I can recall refusing help when it was so clear that I really needed it. Times after I had my c-section, times at work, or with my friends. It is so ingrained in many of us to not ask for or receive help. We think we are so afraid of being seen as a freeloader. Someone who is ungrateful or undignified. We hide behind the wall of “I’m fine” and suffer through whatever we need to do.
When you step back and think about it, it is all a little ridiculous right? One of the biggest challenges for me on my journey to freedom and abundance was addressing my addiction to “I’m fine”. Here’s what I have learned about why we pretend we don’t need help and can do it all ourselves.
We use “I’m fine” as a protective barrier to hide behind. You see, in order to receive from others we have to be vulnerable and let others know that we have needs. Having needs often feels weak because it is vulnerable. We protect ourselves from exposing our needs by making the decision that we don’t have any. At some point along the way we made the unconscious decision that having needs and being vulnerable is too painful. Maybe it is because we grew up in homes where we weren’t allowed to have needs, or maybe a parent’s needs were more valued than ours. It could have developed later in life from a really painful experience where your connection to others caused you a great deal of pain. Or it could simply be modeled behavior from our mothers that we internalized as normal. Whatever the cause, the result is us hiding behind a protective barrier of “I’m fine” and putting on a brave face.
This is a great solution to a problem we experience in the short-term. The problem of feeling disconnected. The problem of feeling rejected because no one valued our needs or emotions. It is brilliant then to decide you don’t have needs, right? If we don’t have needs then no one can reject us. This strategy, however, is costing us way more than we realize in the long run. When we show up in life with this protective barrier we are performing. We don’t allow people to really see or know us, only the version of us we want them to see. It is a performance. Sure, we are “protected,” but we are also put in the position of working for or earning love and acceptance. This always leads to feelings of emptiness because it is empty. It is a performance, not the real us. The real us is hiding in the background unknown and unseen. It is costing her everything she needs to live a happy, inspired, and abundant life.
There is another dark side we often don’t consider in living this life of performance. We are ultimately cat-fishing everyone in our lives. We are only showing them the curated version of us we want them to see and expect them to be satisfied. We don’t allow them to see us, give to us, or connect with our true hearts. Would this be ok with you if the tables were turned? If your husband, children, and friends only showed up with a curated version of themselves, would that feel very authentic to you? Maybe you are already experiencing this. It is so painful isn’t it? When someone you love doesn’t allow you into their hearts, it really hurts. Have you ever tried to help a friend out whom you know is having a really hard time and hurting and she refused your help? I am sure you can think of at least one time because so many women do this. It is hurtful isn’t it? We want so badly to give to the people we love. It is part of what bonds us. We want to know that we are needed and that someone trusts us enough to see that need and allows us to meet it. It is one of the most powerful connecting experiences. When you can truly receive, you not only feel more alive but the person you allowed “in” feels more alive too. It is a win-win.
Here is what I know for sure. You will never feel fully whole, inspired, abundant and free without allowing yourself to receive. As long as you refuse to let down this protective guard you will always be living life in performance mode. You will always be working and hustling for love and acceptance. You will always feel overworked, taken advantage of, and tired.
I still fight this reality. I still find myself in default mode of, “I’ve got it”. I love how strong I am and how capable I am in juggling 100 things. The reality is, I get to keep all that strength. Admitting I need and want help has nothing to do with me losing what I am capable of. It only means that I choose to show up as my authentic self every day. It means I am confident enough to set boundaries and know my limits. It means that I love people enough to truly let them see me and connect with me. It also means that at the end of the day I have enough joy and energy to share with the people I love most. I can show up for them and let them show up for me and we love each other. It is a beautiful experience.
I choose to no longer hide and hustle for love and acceptance. Join me!