Yesterday, I felt discouraged.
My Pain Blocked Me
Like, really discouraged. The kind where I start to question my capabilities and my worth. My voices of fear whispered, "You're never going to make it. You're a loser. You're a failure."
While there was a big part of me that wanted to retreat and be all by myself in my misery, there was also another part of me that desperately wanted to hear other voices besides my own.
I wanted to reach out and say to my friends: I need you to remind me that I'm not the loser that I feel like I am.
But the very thought was followed by a dozen reasons why that was stupid:
- "Don't bother them-- they're all doing important things right now. They are so busy!"
- "Do you really want to look needy, whiny, and depressed to them?"
- "Besides what can they really do to help? You're just beating yourself up, it's not like you need something tangible and practical."
- "You'd basically just be fishing for compliments anyhow, how lame is that?"
- "In some cases your friends have it worse than you do so how is that supposed to make them feel?!"
- "Your husband is responding soooo beautifully. Do you really need more?"
- Shasta-- you have so much to be grateful for... you know you're fine and can do this on your own."
So for an hour I moped around the office trying to convince myself that I was fine.
Her Pain Opened Me
But then I remembered a conversation I had with a woman last week whose circumstances where different from mine but whose feelings pretty much mirrored by own. She shared with me--a virtual stranger-- about a huge, painful, and overwhelming issue in her life, and when I asked her how supported she felt, she responded with a litany of reasons why she was choosing to not tell her friends and family what was going on:
- "I don't want to be a burden or inconvenience."
- "I don't want to scare them... it's not like I'm dying... I'm sure I'll be fine in 6 months...."
- "I don't want them to pity me..."
- "They're all so busy and consumed by their own lives; they don't need 'one more' thing to worry about."
- "It's my journey, my problem, my life. It's not their issue."
- "Besides I don't technically need their help. I can do it by myself."
But when it was her pain I was able to see clearly and quickly what I was having a harder time seeing for myself: that by suffering alone I am not protecting anyone as much as I am preventing an opportunity for intimacy and support.
Because it wasn't my ego on the line in her story, I could see that she was blocking miracles by not being willing to be vulnerable. By wanting to avoid "inconveniencing" others, she was also avoiding them having the chance to serve her, help her, and love her in meaningful ways. She wasn't the only one losing out on the chance to feel close to someone-- she was robbing her friends and family from the opportunities to feel, to grow, to stretch, and to support.
My heart broke for her. Why do we all feel like we have to go through life alone when all the research (and our own experience!) reinforces that we're happier and healthier when we feel seen and supported? Why do we think being needy has to be hidden?
But the Magic Was in the Practice
Why do we all SAY that we want relationships that are close and supportive but then don't ever want to actually give them the opportunities to be that?
How are we supposed to ever feel supported if we don't admit when we need it?
How are we supposed to give our friends permission to need us if we never want to express that we need them?
I could see for her that she was robbing both herself and her friends the chance to go deeper and experience real support and love.
But even then I could say, "Yes but she really had something big. My pain is so inconsequential compared to hers."
And in that moment it hit me: Well then this is the perfect time to practice showing my need and receiving from my friends. If I want to go through life supported then I need to practice in the "small areas" so that I become more comfortable when the stakes are higher.
I either believe that we're meant to do life together or I don't.
But if I do-- then I'm at risk of suffering alone and robbing my friends and myself of a chance to connect.
So I group texted 7 friends.
And the messages I got back made me laugh, produced a tear when I felt seen, helped me feel how I loved I am, and reminded me that I wasn't alone.
- I now have affirmations on my phone that I can go back and read anytime about how my friends see me.
- Several others resonated that they were feeling crummy or down, too, and felt better for being able to reach out and connect.
- Some of them offered very specific ways they wanted to help or offered to talk on the phone or go for a walk with me after work, if I wanted.
- One of them said it encouraged her to know that I have my ups-and-downs too because it's so easy to look at each others lives and think everyone else is more successful and happy.
- And the other women were getting loved on and encouraged, too. Just seeing their friends come through for me in that way reminded all of them that they have access to that love, too! They felt loved!
At the end of the day we all felt more supported. My willingness to be vulnerable and express my need for connection not only encouraged me, but gave that gift to all of them, too.
Let people in. Not just for your sake, but for theirs as well.