The first time I saw a therapist, I left her office in tears and felt FAR worse about my situation than I had one hour earlier. I was uncomfortable talking to her. I was sweating. I was holding my hands between my legs, fingers laced together, arms tense. I wasn’t maintaining eye contact. I didn’t want to answer her questions, nor did I want to bring up what I actually came to talk to her about. I wasn’t being an ideal client, but I should have known that wasn’t a role play. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to hear or if she would say it. I kept an eye on the clock, and vowed up and down to never return to that office.
One recommendation and a few weeks later, I was in a new office. On a comfier couch. My hands were relaxed. My shoulders down. My back leaned casually into the cushions as I crossed my legs underneath me and settled in. I looked into the eyes of someone who instantly comforted. She felt like a gift. We worked together for a few months, until one day she smiled at me and said, “We don’t need to schedule a follow up, unless you want to.”
If I could have afforded to sit and chat with her every week from there on out, I would have. Sometimes I went in and we did a breathing meditation! Like yoga, just way more expensive and on a more comfortable (couch) cushion. That permission to go off on my own was both emotionally and financially liberating. I was OK! She said so! I felt it! My bank account wanted to affirm it! Off we go, independent and taken care of.
I’ve been back to her a few times since, as life suggests it may be a good idea to talk “it” out. I maintain that I would see her consistently if it were in the budget. (One day!) Now that I’m on the receiving end of similar tough conversations, I think about what it took for me to ask for help, to seek that guidance. I wonder why it had to get so bad, to go so far. But we can’t, or probably won’t, change anything until we’re ready. We can’t hear help, even it’s yelling right in front of our faces, until we’re ready. We can’t accept help until our hands are empty. Even then, help has to feel just right as we grasp onto it.
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Every time I get an email from a new client, I take a minute to think about what it took for them to reach out and ask for help. I let myself feel that for a minute, because I know. I’ve asked. I pause before responding, taking time to read what they need and why they need it, to make sure I can try my best to be for them what was behind therapy-door-number-two for me. To avoid being what was behind door number one. (That therapist is perfectly good at her job, I’m sure. She just wasn’t the right person for me.)
To ask for help is probably the hardest step of them all. It’s letting a guard down, letting someone into your story, allowing them to help you take the wheel and steer the course. It’s admitting you can’t do it alone. Spoiler alert: None of us can do it alone.
Even in my small, solo business, I’ve realized how invaluable it is to ask for help. Instead of singing Miss Independent a la Kelly—or, more my style, Independent Woman a la Destiny’s Child—I’ve knocked the walls down and invited people in. (Literally, someone else is knocking our actual walls down and I’m like Have at it!) I don’t care how much experience they have or don’t have, how much money they make or don’t make, or how much our services compete with or complement each other. There is room in this entrepreneur world for all of us! I only care that I’m honest in my requests and needs, so I can improve my business, and myself, with their advice.
I’ve taken a few business development webinars. Each has offered at least one small nugget of advice that stuck with me or completely changed the way I approach something. I talk to a small group of dietitians at least once a month about business challenges, successes, and goals (aka a “mastermind” group). I talk to my friend Anne about work things almost once a week, but first a long chat about pregnancy and puppies. I FINALLY reached back out to a dietetic intern who got in touch with me a few months ago, and said, “Yes, I need help. What do you think about these projects?” I’ve offered my advice, entrepreneurial real talk, coaching services, and real life stories in an attempt to help others, in some small way. In the past month, I reached out to every RD who has helped me with the podcast since its launch, and said, “Will you help me with this new project?” They said yes. (WHOOP! More on that coming soon.)
I went to Wilder because I wanted to learn, and ask for help from, a group of strangers who share a similar passion and have unique challenges to work through.
My business would already have failed by now if I had tried to do it all alone. I would have struggled much longer if I hadn’t sought out another therapist. I would still be in the throws of an eating disorder if I didn’t find what I needed to recover. I would never have crossed a finish line after 26.2 miles without someone else saying, “Here’s one way to do it.”
Whatever it is you’re trying to do, don’t do it alone.
Don’t think you have to try to recover from disordered eating, compulsive exercise, or the futile diet cycle alone. Don’t think you have to figure out how to train for a race or how to make running part of your routine, alone. Don’t assume that starting and surviving an entrepreneur life is something you have to do alone. Don’t think you’re alone in searching for your first job or wanting to quit and find your next one.
I can only speak for myself, and my dietetic career, writing, and coaching experiences: I got nowhere fast when I tried to be completely independent. I learned a LOT about myself, the process, and the good humans I’ve connected with when I asked for help. I don’t need my successes to be my own. It’s not any sweeter. I want them to be collective, because it means I had the courage to ask for help, and to learn from those around me. Try it. See what happens.