And how shame plays into it all.
This article is cross-posted from my weekly newsletter, The Sunday Soother, a newsletter about clarity, intention, and useful tips for creating more meaning in your life that goes out every Sunday morning. Subscribe here. I am also a personal development strategist and coach working to help people with self-acceptance, self-trust, and self-compassion. You can learn more about working with me here.
Happy Sunday, friends. Lately I’ve been thinking about the area of support. This is coming up for me because I’m learning so much about how to receive and ask for help as I continue my entrepreneurial journey and turn back into a regular student who doesn’t know what the heck she’s doing half the time. And yet, somehow, I felt like I couldn’t ask for help or ever reveal the ways in which I was struggling to get my business and systems up and running. Which is ridiculous because: My education is in English lit, journalism, and life coaching. Why should I feel silly or shame around not knowing how to do some aspects of this? Why do I feel such a performative bent to show off how much I am actually doing all by myself without asking anybody for help?
This idea of support and shame came into my life further when I was talking to somebody who was worried about the amount of support she seemed to need in her life. “I am a fairly anxious, sensitive person who hires SO many people to help me and tell me what to do. Individual therapy, couples therapy, career coach, nutritionist/trainer. I have a lot of shame for even needing all this help in the first place, not knowing how to get out from under it and start trusting myself. I keep thinking of Dumbo’s magic feather — can I fly without my support team?” she asked.
And — though I haven’t been able to extend as easily this grace to myself, naturally — I asked her to consider: “What if some people just need more support than others? And what if that’s okay?”
This gave her pause and I could see her shoulders relaxing even with that suggestion. Because I believe it’s true.
Some of us do need more support than others.
We have this monolithic attitude in American capitalist bootstrapping society that if you’re not going it alone, you’re being needy. Over-reliant. Weak.
At the same time, we never teach people how to be vulnerable. How to be compassionate to themselves and others. How to set up boundaries that protect their self-worth but also open their hearts to the outside world.
And then we whip that combo all together, dollop it with a healthy serving of shame, and voila:
We have a society in which most people feel pretty bad about themselves and their needs.
This shows up extra-heightened I find in people who are empathetic, highly sensitive, or generally anxious and shy. They (we, I should say; I am those things, too) have been shamed for so long for being extra sensitive that we’ve sublimated our needs, learned to be ashamed of feeling or needing more, and learned to not trust our inner voice because it was often deemed “too much.”
So this week I ask you to consider: What needs are you ashamed about? Where do you refuse to ask for help? What privilege do you have that you constantly beat yourself up for? Do you have shame about not having enough? Do you have shame about having more than enough? What else?
Now that you’ve done that, I want you to consider something else:
Do you trust yourself?
Because where I do see needing support and help going over the lines of what’s helpful is when a person doesn’t know how to listen to their inner voice anymore; how to make decisions; has paralysis in moving forward in life without asking a million people what they would do or spending hours in a Google rabbit hole looking for anything that will save them.
Consider the fine line between asking for the support you need and desire, and your ability to trust yourself to do what’s best for you. That line teeters on knowing your inner voice and your intuition and in shedding fear of what others will think of you for your actions. That’s why I suggested so heartily going on an advice detox recently; it’s only one of many ways you can start becoming acquainted with your inner knowing.
Let’s break it down a bit further into support you might actually need vs. when that’s spilled over into lack of self-trust:
Support looks like: Therapy. Time alone. Time with friends. Baths. Journaling. Understanding and defining your boundaries, and sticking to them. Making time for stuff that nourishes your heart, body, mind, family (cooking, meditation, vacations, long walks, connection) and making sure you are prioritizing those in your calendar. Long calls with a BFF or a parent; time in nature; getting the opinions of a few people you deeply know and trust on big life decisions.
You know you’ll feel supported when you feel nourished; inspired; expansive; rested; calm; guided.
Lack of self-trust looks like: Inability to make any decisions. Prioritizing other’s beliefs, opinions or thoughts above your own on a regular basis. No idea what feels good to your body, your heart, or your mind. Mistaking self-care for zoning or numbing out activities. A frantic feeling that somehow you’re both doing too much and not enough.
You’ll know you’re lacking self-trust when you feel lost; panicked; unrooted; pinballing; anxious; disconnected from your heart and your body; spinning words and stories around loudly in your mind.
So where are you on this fine line? I’d love to hear how you know you’re seeking support rather than experiencing lack of self-trust. (And I talk a lot more about all of this in this week’s podcast.)
And know we all go back and forth between the two as we grow as humans; that’s life. We just want to spend as much time in the supported part as we can, and notice the hints that we may be drifting across the line into lack of self-trust when that happens.
If you’ve been thinking about ways to bring in more support into your life and learn to set better boundaries and trust yourself more, good news: I am opening up two coaching spots this month. If you’re ready for customized, transformative work in this area, just reply to this email or head here to learn more and sign up for a discovery call here. You can see a lot more info on my Instagram stories, too. I’d love to hear from you.