I like to say that I’m good at doing things on my own, probably because I am. But on the contrary, you won’t typically hear me say that I’m terrible at asking for help, especially when I need it. But that’s also true.
I’ve always been that way. When I was 7 years old, I dreamt of being an author (because I had just figured out that books were written by actual people) and let my mind escape into a future where I was my own version of wonder woman…you know, the one who wrote novels and started a non-profit organization. Oh yeah, she sang too and wrote her own lyrics and knew how to play every instrument. She was also a top secret agent who performed concerts with her girl group on the side. They were called the Soul Sisters or something along those lines. You know, realistic goals.
Even when I dreamt these things that were in collaboration with others, I dreamt that I was in charge of making things happen. Some people might translate that into a knowing that you want to be a leader of some sorts, but what I’ve wondered about is whether its mostly because I am still not fully able to trust others.
I like things to be done a certain way and sometimes, I think that I’m the only person who is able to accomplish what it is that I need. I know, I know, it’s a little egotistical…or a lot. But what it comes from is not having a stable sense of support growing up and so I got used to this assumption in my head that reminded me that people were unreliable. You have yourself in this world and no one else. The message was pretty clear and pretty true when I was growing up…and then I hit the real world. Then I moved out of my parents home. Then I was introduced to a whole new set of faces and personalities. But I always remembered what I learned. I always remembered that whoever these people were, they were not to be relied on.
It was only recently that I came to realize that this is a very lonely way to walk through your life. To place this assumption that you ingrained in yourself since childhood, and now seem to apply to everyone else around you and anyone you will ever meet. To believe that you have a right to help others but they don’t get that same chance with you. It’s a very ‘tough’ person thing to do, but what I now want is not to be a tough person. I’d rather be a strong person, instead.
The difference between being tough and strong is the amount of vulnerability you offer from within yourself. I’ve gotten used to being tough because I didn’t know there was even a difference. Tough meant I didn’t want to look weak, so I didn’t show my emotions. Tough meant I put a big smile on my face every day and buried the truth deep inside of me until even I couldn’t see it anymore. Tough meant that even my closest of friends knew nothing about me. Tough meant that I lived through a representative, instead of who I actually was.
I’ve come to understand that strength looks a lot different than this. Strength means opening yourself up to connection. It means saying your truth. It means letting people in. It means trusting those who have shown up time and time again. It means letting people show up for you in the first place.
I thought that to be strong meant that I had to do it on my own, but really it means the exact opposite. I’m still learning, I’m still trying to catch myself in these moments. But I think that understanding the difference helped. And when that voice inside me screams that people aren’t reliable, I remind it that I am learning how to distinguish the truth of that. Because, as Brene Brown says, “When you first start trying to be vulnerable, people are going to freak out and there will be pushback. You will scare some people. But vulnerability is a great filter. If people can’t accept your vulnerability, they don’t deserve your trust.” Meaning that all of this is not to say that I am suddenly trusting of all humans that walk this planet, but I’m practicing sharing with people who have earned the right to hear my story. I’m practicing allowing them to show up. I’m practicing this whole connection thing that I’ve strained away from for most of my life.
What I’m beginning to realize is that I may have been missing out before, because the more I practice, the more I know it’s worth it.