As a high-achiever I’ve always been used to things coming pretty easily to me. Not having to practise very much, or having to ask for much help. If I apply my brain I can generally work things out, and more than that, be pretty good at it pretty fast. Even writing this, there’s a part of me thinking “wow, that’s arrogant, don’t say that” but the simple fact is it’s true. I’m almost certain it is also true for a lot of my clients, whether they would admit it or not!
The challenge is that when that is the norm, we expect to be able to work things out for ourselves. To the point where it is a matter of pride not to ask for support. If I’m honest with myself, I hate having to ask for help. I find it shameful. I’d much rather work it out myself and turn up with everything handled and wrapped in a beautiful bow. No messiness or not quite right or nearly there. No need to admit that I don’t know how.
But what happens when I don’t know how to do things? That’s when it starts to get a little sticky. In past experiences in my previous jobs I would firstly hide or avoid; “I haven’t quite got to that yet”. Then perhaps I would bend the truth; “I’m working on it, it’s not quite there yet”. Eventually if someone kept asking I would actually outright lie, to myself and others “it’s on track, not quite finished but I’m good, I have what I need”. My experience with my clients tells me some or all of this is likely true for you too.
But why? Because the shame of admitting we don’t know how can be overwhelming. Because in our heads we should be able to do this, it shouldn’t be this hard. We shouldn’t need to ask for help. And worse, what will people think of us if we admit we don’t know how, we don’t have that expertise, that thing we said was fine…..definitely wasn’t.
The hiding becomes a trap. Once we start it becomes harder and harder to go back. We just have to work harder, try harder – and stress more – until we figure it out. Or not.
Because here’s the thing. Until we can be totally honest with ourselves and others about what we are struggling with, we make it impossible to get any help or support. And to be honest with ourselves takes allowing us to be human rather than perfect. It takes a different relationship to help and support – not a sign of weakness but access to something more.
Support isn’t a dirty word. It can be uncomfortable to ask for, unsettling or even shameful to admit we don’t have it all figured out. But it is the only way we get to grow. That’s the choice we make – be honest, be human, allow support, grow and learn. Or stay stuck. What do you say?