Sunday, May 19, 2013

Asking Without Shame


If you spend any time anywhere on the internet you’ve probably heard Amanda Palmer’s TED talk by now. If by chance you have a life away from your desk and do things in the sunshine and haven’t seen the video, you’ll find it below.



This video appeared in my twitter feed like manna from internet heaven, like little glittering fairies surrounded Amanda while she was writing so that her words would reach out and touch my very soul. Or, you know, maybe it was just a fortuitous coincidence and she explored issues that a lot of us struggle with. 

It might be that last one but I’m not quite ready to give up on fairies just yet.

As brevity is the soul of wit and no one wants to hear me whine, my story boils down to this: I got a promotion. I was not given enough training. I knew that I was not given enough training. I did not ask for the help I needed. I was unsuccessful and demoted. As tales of woe go it’s not the most tragic; I still have a job, I still have my health, my family. Nothing was hurt, as they say, but my pride.

And my pride, really, is the core of the problem. I knew I needed help but I was too embarrassed to ask for it. There’s a stigma about asking, about needing. For so long I’ve lived by the philosophy that if I can’t do it on my own that means I’m just not good enough, smart enough and no one will like me.

Asking is scary. You’re telling someone that you’re less than perfect, that there is something that you lack; you’re being voluntarily vulnerable. You’re asking for something and they may so no. And not getting what you need sometimes seems safer than asking for it. Which is all so preposterous when written out in front of me, but then, fear is often ridiculous. I mean, I’m still terrified of clowns.

The heartbreaking part of my little professional melo-drama, the part that makes me want to smack myself upside the head, is that I was working my ass off and worrying myself sick trying not to fail at a job that I didn’t care about because I never stopped to ask myself what I want.  I was so concerned with what other people would think of me and what other people thought I should be doing, who they thought I should be, that I didn’t ask myself for what I needed.

The most important thing I gleaned from Amanda’s TED talk was that she is able to ask for the help she needs from others because she has allowed herself to ask. She started with herself and gave herself permission to be human and vulnerable and trusting, to “ask without shame”. 

I can spend my life crying in the handicapped stall of the women’s bathroom  OR  I can ask myself what it is that I truly want and I can ask for help from the people who can help me get there. 

Amanda helped me to realize that asking usually isn’t just asking, it’s sharing. Sharing is what connects us, whether we're sharing personal stories on sad little blogs or sharing 20 bucks to help an indie author self publish, or sharing what we need -allowing someone to help us, to feel a part of someone else's life if only for a moment.