The other night, I had just come home from getting a manicure in which I took off my (gasp!) acrylics. I went thru a phase post-Coachella where I decided to go natural and then realized life is slightly easier without them. Having acrylics makes so many things hard, like putting on jewelry, be it tiny earring or necklace clasps. I sat at my vanity in front of my mirror feverishly trying to get all the teeny tiny new hoops into some of the eleven holes in my ears. I got stuck on a few and watched as my ears turn more and more red – I grew frustrated. I thought about calling out to Will, my roommate, and asking for his assistance, but some voice inside me encouraged me not to.
After about 25 minutes of messing around, I finally got up and asked for help. Both in the moment and in looking back now, I just wonder why it was so hard for me to do that. I knew Will wouldn't tell me no nor would it take too long to fasten all the earrings, so what was stopping me?
My parents put an immense amount of pressure on me growing up (and honestly, still do now). I sometimes resent them for it but other times I think (for better or worse) it made me tougher. A huge problem, though, is my inability to reach out and ask for help or support. I often have a tough exterior, I rarely allow others to see any bit of vulnerability nor negative emotions, and I feel like I inconvenience people when I want to share that I'm having a bad day. A lot of this, I believe, comes back to my upbringing.
Growing up, I never wanted to be seen as weak. I think this was both a mixture of nature and nurture. I'm the first born in my family, so obviously my parents cracked down more on me than they did with my brother. They had kind of instilled a fear in me in wanting to truly open up with people and sharing my thoughts or feelings. I was also bullied, often being made fun of for my interests and how I presented myself. I look back on this with a freshened perspective, but those scars still remain. I stopped sharing a lot of information with both my family and my peers, often turning to online communities (of fan girls!!!!) in search of a safe place to express myself.
Still, again, I always felt this need to be the "strong" one. I think a lot of this, in part, is also due to being an older sister and the first grandchild on my mom's side. I'm always used to being the oldest, the protector. I am always looking out for others' wellbeing and do a good job of instilling confidence in others and helping them come out of their shells (or at least I think I do). For a long time, I put others' needs before mine, and as more time passed, my wellbeing was ready to explode.
I decided at the turn of my twenty fourth birthday that I would be more selfish this year. This doesn't mean consciously walking over my friends or screwing people over. I was just going to be more cognizant of how I was feeling and what I needed to do to feel stable or equalized. This would bring confidence in saying no to social plans or work asks. This would allow me to take more time for myself without feeling guilty or obligated to do certain things. This could be a great chance for me to take a step back and remember what was important to me and what I wanted to accomplish. I've been working hard at this, both alone and with my therapist, and it's not something that's easy to retrain yourself to do. It's something that you have to take on day by day.
I never want my friends or those I love to feel like they can't come to me when they need something. Even if I don't have ever part of the solution at my disposal, I still will be there to support them and offer advice. I think, then, that's it's only fair that I'd be able to do the same. I am learning to remind myself that it's ok to reach out to people on my low days and be open with them. There are obviously some friends I turn to before others, and I don't think I need to confide in every single person in my favorites in my contacts, but I want to feel confident enough to know when to ask for a hand – literally and metaphorically.
At the end of the day, you can only control your actions. The voices in my head are a little better on some days than others and re-learning behaviors like this isn't easy. While I still like to seem put together, I know that it's totally ok to just say "I'm not having a good day" or to ask "Can you help me with something?" I'm trying to be more honest and open with both myself and those around me. These aren't skills you can acquire in one day, and I'm learning to be ok with that.