Friday, August 3, 2007

Asking for Help

I just got back from a swim in the ocean with my personal trainer, Dane Stevens. He's the bomb! He's the kind of guy who will do something crazy like swim in the ocean with me. This whole swimming in the ocean thing is still new to me, and while I'm out there, I realize that part of me is really NOT okay with swimming out in the middle of the ocean, with no life jacket, and limited vision, because my glasses are back safe and sound on the beach!

Now, one of the things I love about being a coach is that I get to work on my own stuff (and let me tell you, there's enough of it). And as I'm talking myself through the mini panic attack, I realize I have a choice...several, actually. I can continue to talk myself through this mini attack alone, I can turn tail and head for shore, I can try to ignore the panic (which generally only makes me feel worse and more alone), OR, wonder of wonders, I can turn to MY coach, swimming right next to me, and ask for help. WOW! I can ask for help. Who would have thought?! (Please feel free to read that last line with plenty of sarcasm.)

No sooner do I have that thought, than Dane starts telling me to look at the pod of dolphins that is literally coming right toward us. At first, I can't see them, but I can hear them. So cool! And soon enough, there they are, beautiful, free, leaping dolphins! They swim right through us; over, around and under us. All the while, we're surrounded by the sound of dolphin-speak. And even though the dolphins are amazing, part of me is still panicked, and now it's a little stronger because we're being surrounded by wild sea animals!

I decide to ask for help. I tell Dane that I'm scared, that I don't want to swim in deep water anymore--that I'm starting to picture sharks. And Dane tells me that's normal. Lots of people feel that way. And then he says, "The dolphins are a sign that we are absolutely safe." And I know he's right. It's the same thing I tell my clients when they are swimming in their own deep waters.

So there I am, bobbing up and down in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, not quite able to see exactly where I'm going and feeling pretty alone inside my fear. But I also know that if I choose to swim in deep water, I will have to go through the fear, but I DON'T have to do it alone; I can ask for help. That's why I have Dane, because part of his job is to help me through moments like these. And he can't do that unless I ask him for it.

For many women, asking for help is anathema. These are the same women who would cut off their right arms to help someone else, yet the thought of asking for help for themselves is impossible to think, much less act on. See if you run any of these on yourself:

  • If I ask for help, I'm weak
  • Asking for help is okay for others, but not me
  • I can't ask for help, I'm the only one who knows how to do it right
  • Nobody would want to help me
  • Help, I don't need yer stinkin' help!
  • Help is for sissies
  • If I ask for help, I'll get taken advantage of
  • I have to do it myself, if I want to get _____ (fill in the blank) that job, that promotion, that award, love, approval, acceptance, recognition, etc.
If you recognize any of these beliefs for yourself, you can use a technique I learned from Byron Katie and Martha Beck, ask yourself, "Is it true?" If you think it's true, ask again, "Can I be sure this is true?" Think of three reasons that it might not be true. Try to be the "Disbelief Detective" and search for evidence as to why the thought you're having may not be true. Look for examples of people you know who have asked for help and who you admire for having done so. If you're feeling stuck, get a friend to help you gather your evidence.

Now, think of how you feel when you're having one of these thoughts. Do you feel more imprisoned, heavier, less energetic? How does thinking that thought make your body feel? How easy is it for you to get things done or take action?

Now ask yourself this. What if you had no way to think the thoughts that keep you from asking for help? How would you feel, now? Who would you be if you had no ability to think those thoughts? How would you act? How does your body feel now? My guess is that you feel a lifting of weight, a rush of energy, a sense of expansion.

I invite you to try it. I invite you to start questioning the thoughts that keep you from asking for help, that keep you thinking you have to do it by yourself, that keep you struggling all alone in deep waters. Start small. See what happens. You might discover that there are dolphins.