I really suck at it, even still after all this time. It is just really hard. To be quite honest this skill has never come easy to me. I will give myself some credit though and tell you that I have gotten exponentially better at it. Asking for help. Telling people you aren’t ok. This is extremely hard for me. I am now going to be a sophomore in college, and asking for help still gives me crippling anxiety. Whenever I am faced with this challenge, I always wonder why I just cant seem to reach out. Why do I let that anxiety stop me?
I have come up with many theories in my time struggling with this issue, and I have finally figured out what stops me. FEAR. Oh fear, you’re literally the worst. So what is that fear that I have? What is that fear the stops me from growing persistently pushes me down? Well it simple and also complex.
My fear has many layers; I am scared to bother people with my problems. I am scared that people with judge me for my problems. I am scared people will think I am weak and cant handle my own issues. I am scared to be vulnerable. I am really scared. If you are a girl reading this, I know that you have experienced all these fears too. They suck, don’t they? They are seemingly constant on our minds and present in almost everything we do. At least for me they are. They are nuisances that create sometimes impenetrable roadblocks. They stop us. They frustrate us. They are malignant tumors feeding on our insecurities. So how on earth do we destroy them?
It isn’t easy to get over fear. Fear is strong. Fear is persistent. Fear will always come back to haunt you in some way or another. Maybe we can’t destroy it forever, but we can weaken it and outsmart it. But how? I used to let fear control me. In high school I would never ask anyone for help. If I were sad or upset about something, I would retreat into my room, close the door, and shut off the lights and just cry. Sometimes I would watch T.V. to distract myself. I was hiding from fear. I was running away from my problems and retreating into myself. I needed help. I needed someone to talk to. I just needed someone who would understand. For a very long time though, I just let fear get the best of me. The world I lived in during this time was dark, lonely, and scary.
After my senior year of high school I started to challenge my fear. People in my life wouldn’t give up on asking if I was okay. Even though there was a more insistent push to get over my fear, I still clung on the familiarity and the false sense of safety that fear provided me. Slowly but surely, my barriers started to break down. Little by little I would share my vulnerabilities. I would tell people small snippets of my feelings by saying things like, “ I’m not feeling great” instead of “No, really I am fine”, or I would tell people that “ I didn’t sleep well last night so doing this right now is going to be a challenge” instead of “ Yes! I am so up for that!” I began using my voice to protect myself rather than letting fear overpower me. The more I did this the easier it got to speak up. I could feel myself growing stronger in my convictions, thoughts, feelings, and wants. I began to get to know my free self and ignore the insecure prisoner that I once was. It was liberating.
My fear of speaking up also created a world in which I was constantly trying to please others, and completely ignored what I needed or wanted. When people asked me what I wanted for dinner, I would always tell them “whatever you want!” even though I may have been craving sushi or wanted to try a new restaurant. The same went for making plans, I would never be the one to suggest what I wanted to do and I would always go with the flow to the point where it would inconvenience me.
For a long time I thought that this was the polite thing to do. I have always been a selfless and giving person, and I always want others to have what they need before I take anything for myself. Growing up in a home with many siblings and many opinions, you learn to take the path of least resistance. What I didn’t realize was that I was destroying myself through my silence. Sure there is a time where you should be considerate of what others want and be flexible with others to come to a decision, but sometimes you need to speak up. I have been getting immensely better at this skill, but it takes so much practice, persistence, and courage.
What have I gained from letting people know what I need and letting people know how I feel? I have gained so much. Perhaps the most precious thing I have gained is the feeling I get when I let people see me for me. This is truly the most amazing gift that I have give to myself. Once I stopped hiding, I felt empowered and energized. I love that I can share my vulnerabilities with people, because now they know me. They know who I am and what I like. They know how to treat me and support me when I am feeling low. Prior to speaking my truths, I was always lonely and never really understood why. I am a nice person, a loyal and giving friend, and yet my relationships always seemed to be missing something. It took me a long time to realize that what they were missing was the real me. I have given people the chance to really be there for me and understand me, and this is so much better than having to grind through everyday pretending that everything is fine. I have learned that my thoughts and my feelings are valid, they matter, and people want to know them.
I am still working on this. It isn’t easy to be courageous and be real around people all the time or really anytime, it’s difficult. It’s scary and challenging. But what I have learned is that you will deepen your relationships with others and you will deepen your understanding of yourself as well. Both of these things are vastly important in life. I still have moments where fear gets the best of me. It pushes me back into the dark corner where it prefers me to stay, but as I continue to fight fear, that corner is getting lighter and lighter and soon I know it will be completely illuminated. All I have to do is continue to combat my fear with my truth.