asking for help

September 8th, 2017

As a recovering perfectionist, I used to think that mistakes were lethal. When I was in 2nd grade, I had an egg carton project that I didn’t understand. Instead of trying to understand the instructions better from my teacher, I suffered in silence. You see, I was too perfect to ask for instructions, directions or anything that might leave me feeling foolish. So I stewed and I stewed and I stewed some more until the pressure cooker broke open into uncontrollable crying.

Why do I remember this seemingly innocent and imperfect moment? Because it was traumatic to me–something I wanted to control but couldn’t because i was a seven year old who wasn’t supposed to know everything about life and certainly not about egg carton projects. If I recall correctly, my grandmother came to my aid and helped me understand that this was a relatively simple problem leaving me with the task to go back to my teacher for further clarification.

So what does this have to do with recovery? Well, perfectionism leads to shame and shame leads to withdrawal and withdrawal leads to acting out. Acting out in some form or another to escape and numb out the feelings of shame and profound loneliness. When I was 7, I didn’t know how to ask for help–I had the idea that I was supposed to be self-sufficient. Nowadays, I still carry the distorted belief that I am supposed to pull up my bootstraps and solve all of my problems on my own, but the ongoing challenge is to practice humility and depend on the dependable people around me.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have emotionally-reliable people in my life, and these are the folks to lean on. Not the myth that it’s all up to me and certainly not trying to find someone unavailable to rescue me. But to know who “my people” really are and to cultivate and cherish those solid relationships around me.

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