I’m a indie mom. I’m an entrepreneur. I’m a friend, a sister, a daughter. And like a lot of women out there, I have big dreams. I want to raise kind, compassionate, happy daughters. I want to build a successful business that allows me to contribute my unique talents and gifts. I want to foster deep and meaningful connections and be of service to my community. I want to fully experience life and everything it has to offer.
The problem is that I, like so many others, have an ingrained belief that to accomplish all of these things, I need to do it by myself. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a bit type A. Ok, I’ll be honest…I have been known to be a full-blown control freak. I have the propensity to take things to the nth degree. So if fostering independence and self-sufficiency is a good thing, I strive to be superwoman and do anything and everything I can on my own. (So maybe that’s why I love Whitesnake’s Here I Go Again…it makes so much sense now.)
For years, I absolutely relished trying to fit into this archetype. No matter the activity, whether I was working on a project, planning my daughter’s first birthday party trying to make an important decision, I often would refuse help – even when it made my life more difficult – because I would get high off of the validation that came from others.
“Wow, I can’t believe you did this all on your own.”
“I don’t know how you do it!”
“You’re so strong.”
I loathed asking for help. I hated appearing as if I didn’t know the answer. I had an insanely difficult time sharing my struggles and admitting my weaknesses, especially with those closest to me. I wanted everyone to think that I have life under control, and that I never sweat a thing. Being vulnerable made me really uncomfortable.
As you can imagine, this creates all sorts of problems and limitations in work and in life.
The reality is, living life this way is not fun. In fact, trying to keep up the facade of having it all together is downright lonely and exhausting (and it certainly doesn’t do any favors for a person with anxiety). It also has the unintended consequence of reinforcing unrealistic expectations for everyone else, because let’s face it, when we see others “easily” doing it all on their own, we think we should be doing the same. In reality, we’re all grappling with the same issues under the surface.
What I’ve come to realize after a recent breakthrough (thank you, Claire Zammit) is that no person can be successful, in any area of their life, without the support of others. It is literally impossible for me to grow and evolve into the woman I want to be on my own. We need other people to help us see our blind spots, mirror our potential, offer new perspectives, debate ideas, and so much more.
More importantly, I’ve come to realize that my need for support is not a burden on those who care about me. That, just like I would do anything to support my family, friends and even colleagues, they want to be to do the same for me. But, the catch is, they can only do that if I let them.
I know I’m not the only person who has these tendencies. Not by a long shot. The reality is that so many of us are struggling in life because we cling to the idea that we are weak, or worse yet, failures, if we have to ask for help or look for support. We’re ok extending support to others, but god forbid we seek it for ourselves. This mentality doesn’t benefit us in our personal lives, and it certainly doesn’t benefit us in our work.
Imagine all that we could accomplish as individuals, as organizations and even as a society, if everyone could just accept that they don’t have to be perfect, that we don’t need find all the answers on our own, and instead approached life with a curiosity and openness that allowed us to support one another with the sole purpose of facilitating learning and growth?
As a recovering DYI’er, it’s been a slow and sometimes scary process learning how to be open, honest and vulnerable, and how to accept and receive support. Even though I’m just a few weeks into this new way of living, my relationships, career and life have already changed in profound ways.
So here’s my challenge for you: during the next week, take one opportunity to be vulnerable with someone close to you. Put your usual response of “everything is great” to bed and and let that person catch a glimpse of your inner world. It might just change your life.