I’m going to let you in on a fairly well-known secret — I’m a recovering perfectionist.
And like all perfectionists, past and present, I struggle with asking for help. Even when I know I need it. Especially when I know I need it…
Like many Gen Xers, I was a latch-key child from a young age, responsible for both my brother and myself from the time school got out until my mom returned home from work in the evening. I am also the first-born child in my family. I’ve always been the one who gets shit done, who is responsible, who can be counted on in a crisis to take care of things. And to do it well.
Given my longstanding history of independence and achievement, it’s no surprise then that I hate asking for help. For many years, I viewed asking for help as a deficiency and a weakness.
But, then I faced some pretty big setbacks.
[By ‘setbacks’ I mean those times when life kicks you right in the crotch and then that one kick sends you into a downward spiral of shame and failure, and you keep spiraling down, down, down until you find yourself stuck at the bottom of a deep, soul-sucking hole — paralyzed by indecision, holding onto the secret fear that you will never, never be able to get yourself out of the darkness.]
And, I had to figure out how to get out of the bottom of that goddamn hole.
I know that I am not the only one who has ever found herself scared and overwhelmed and lost. I know this because life is difficult, hitting us all with unexpected problems at one point or another. I know this because I’ve seen too many other women in exactly this position to believe that I am alone. I know this because it is true.
WHAT I’M WONDERING IS: WHY DON’T WE TALK ABOUT IT? WHY DON’T WE ASK FOR HELP?
Why don’t we turn to each other for love and support when we are struggling? Why do we feel that sharing our pain is a sign of weakness? Why do we hold ourselves to a standard of perfection that is unattainable? Why do we believe that living a grownup life means managing everything all on our own — and doing it perfectly?
Fuck if I know. I don’t have all the answers.
But I do know that we would all be better off if we changed the story around asking for help, if we believed that receiving help was just as valid and important as offering help to others, if we accepted that we’ll never be the ‘perfect’ wife/mother/friend/boss/employee that we expect ourselves to be.
And that’s ok.
In fact, it’s better than ok; it’s fantastic. Because these insane expectations are going to kill us in the end. The drive to be the woman who can do it all (and by herself, thank you very much) and the need to be the perfect woman are two of the most dangerous beliefs in existence. Sadly, they are also two of the most common.
In the coaching world, both of these perspectives are excellent examples of limiting beliefs. A limiting belief is any underlying thought or story we tell ourselves that prevents us from living our most abundant lives. Often, we absorb these beliefs in childhood. Limiting beliefs impact the choices we make and how we behave in response to any given situation. Until we discover our own limiting beliefs, we are powerless to make meaningful, lasting change in our lives.
If you grew up poor, constantly watching your parents struggle to put food on the table and keep a rough over your head, you most likely internalized the message that life is supposed to be hard and money will always be scarce. Those childhood lessons often express themselves as various limiting beliefs in your adult life:
“Life is a constant struggle.”
“I’ll never be happy.”
“Some people have it so easy.”
“Poor people can’t become rich.”
“The rich get richer and the poor get poorer.”
“I’m just not good with money.”
The thing about limiting beliefs is they, well, limit you.
When you believe that life is a struggle or you are destined to be poor, then you make decisions based around supporting those beliefs. We seek out or create experiences to match our beliefs— many times unconsciously.
We have to consciously identify our limiting beliefs in order to overcome them.
So, when we tell ourselves ‘successful women do it all’ or ‘independent women don’t need help’ or ‘I have to be perfect,’ we’re limiting ourselves. We defining not only ourselves, but also other women, based on a faulty system. Beliefs are not truths; they can be changed.
No one does ‘it all’. Successful women delegate. Independent women share their lives with many people (family, friends, partners, coworkers) and they help each other. Perfection doesn’t exist. Do the best you can and accept that your best is good enough.
YOU ARE ENOUGH.
Asking for help will never change that.