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The anti-damsel

Isn't it interesting how in our attempts to break the mould, crush stereotypes, or overcome our personal pain, we often over-correct and go too far the other way? Okay, so technically damsel refers to a young unmarried woman, but I in my travels I've discovered that men don't seem to want to be "dudes in distress", either.

This is my favourite meme on the internet currently. I can't not smile when I look at it... The recognition is comical. Yep. Guilty as charged. Because sometimes I'm Funny Coach Anne, I shared this with a few clients who also felt a deep sense of recognition. It's nice to poke fun at our absurdity sometimes. We can laugh, because by the time they've taken the dive into the deep end with me, that wheelie chair is already being extracted from the scene and they're building new help resources. As much as life has continued to present me lessons in the curriculum of receiving help, and I've come a heck of a long way, I still encounter this resistance in me more often than I'd prefer, too. The wheelie chair might be gone, but the psyche has plenty of other alternatives to keep us (seemingly) mobile without needing help from anyone else. Sometimes our patterns run really, really deep. Clearly life has had to whack me over the head with that metaphorical 2x4 a few times until the message finally started coming through. For me to realise: It really is okay to ask for help. It's okay to say "I don't know how to do this." It's okay to say "I find this hard." It's okay to ask "Would you be able to walk with me through this?" Relationships can be really complicated and it can feel viscerally painful to ask people for support, be that practical, emotional or spiritual; personal or professional. When I started working with the part of me that HATED asking for help, I couldn't start by asking people. The vulnerability made me nauseous. So I started by asking some kind of higher power. At the time, I didn't necessarily believe in an ultimate God, but I felt a sense there was something out there: there had to be. So I just started asking for guidance. For protection. To be able to feel just a little bit better, just a little bit less alone. And it started working. This was an important step for me, because it was an acknowledgment (to myself) that I was not in control. Next was strangers. They were much less scary. I hired help so that I didn't have to feel bad about "putting my stuff on someone else." I started feeling much lighter. And I was gently encouraged to soften a little bit more in my interpersonal relationships. Then I started opening up to those close to me who I could trust. Letting them know that all those smiles didn't necessarily mean I was doing okay. This helped enormously. Because this safety enabled me to ask questions like "what do I need?" And "what do I want?" Before, there was no space for this, but it was starting to emerge. I was able to say when I was meeting my limits, instead of completely mowing them down and eroding whatever was left of my self-trust and self-worth. Things started to shift on the professional level too. As I started becoming more and more aware of my needs and preferences as well as my capacity, I could communicate this more clearly to others. It was often hard. Sometimes it still is. But no longer was it Anne v The World. It's Anne in the world. Today, all of these things remain legs on my stool of support. - Connecting with a higher power - Having formal emotional support - Cultivating safe friendships based in reciprocity - Interpersonal self-advocacy When I forget about one of these things, I quickly feel my well-being dropping. I had a nice lesson in this only last week, so over the weekend there was lots of self-reflection to do to make sure I take forward the lessons in this, and keep evolving. And that's okay. That's how this game works. One of my nicknames in high school was Buff Annie. I don't hear it anymore, but I hold it close in my heart - I'm very fond of it! I'm always going to have this tough streak, this relentlessness, this part of me that likes to be tough and get shit done. That's just me. But now that I have become acquainted with a support system, I don't have to feel like an island anymore. I can be tough and seek to achieve big things, and I can also ask people to help with that. Actually, I think that's the only way we can get (and give) the most out of ourselves in this lifetime. My point: you don't lose yourself in asking for support. I'd assert you actually gain access to much more of yourself. By learning not just to be fierce, but fiercely interdependent. (This is a term I've borrowed from a friend I met on LinkedIn, Jason Gootman. I've mentioned this before here, but in case you missed the idea, I'm reminding you.) The importance cannot be overstated. This is why when working with clients, I continually invite them to edge their way into opening up to important resources that already exist around them. And doing that in a way that includes both giving and receiving. When I say "edge", I mean, we don't force it. I get it, it's hard. So we practise in different ways and gradually build up a level of comfort. That's how you expand any capacity in a sustainable way. I'd love to hear from you , do you recognise yourself in what I have shared? Have you discovered the magic of releasing yourself from the Lone Wolf mentality, even if only through prayer? Did you also get humbled (read: whacked by a 2x4) by life on your way to learning this? Wherever you are along the path, however many legs you've got on your support stool, I acknowledge your courage. This work is not for the faint of heart, and I am immensely grateful for your readership, because it reflects your commitment to you. Which is, by definition, a commitment to a better world. Thank you for showing up. Keep showing up.


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