“The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.” ~ Ernest Hemingway
Trust issues—I knew I had them. What I didn’t know was how much they were hurting me.
Anyone could take a look at my past and see where my trust issues came from. I have a long history with people who are supposed to love and protect me letting me down monumentally. Though I’ve worked tirelessly to heal the wounds of my childhood and my failed marriage, the residual pain remains. All these years later, my past was still keeping me from the depth I craved in my relationships—and in many ways, from becoming the full expression of who I am.
Trust issues come in lots of different packages. They extend far beyond the expected suspicion or throwing up walls to keep people out. A big result of my underlying issues with trust, I recently discovered, is that I don’t ask for help—even when I really need it.
Being let down so many times in my past made me feel like I was on my own in this big, scary world. To admit my needs to another person made me feel exceedingly vulnerable. It was terrifying.
I am superwoman, after all. I shouldn’t need help.
In fact, I’m much more comfortable offering my help to others than asking for or receiving help from someone else. For me, there is safety in giving. It makes me feel valuable, useful, needed. Truthfully, when I am giving, I feel in control. That’s where the safety actually comes from. It’s in the feeling of control.
Admitting that I need help means that I don’t have everything figured out. It makes me feel weak—helpless even. I don’t want to be helpless. I don’t want to be dependent on someone else. I don’t want to be a burden, or take too much from anyone. But mostly, I don’t want to be let down again.
I don’t want to be rejected, or hurt, or told that my needs are too great or not important enough. I don’t want to experience the pain that comes from revealing my needs to someone, and watching them walk away. I don’t want to feel like I can’t do everything in this world all by myself, because life has taught me that sometimes that’s the only option.
This fear—based on real, painful, terrible moments in my past—keeps me from trusting people who have never hurt me before. People who would never hurt me intentionally. People who would like nothing more than the opportunity to be trusted with my needs, my happiness, my dreams. People I unknowingly keep at a distance, because my ego won’t let me ask them for what I need or accept help when they offer it to me.
Two things happen when I don’t let people help me: one is that I make life harder for myself than it should be.
And maybe that’s the way I think I want it. Maybe I’m still getting off on the idea that I don’t need anyone to help me. But that’s just my ego continuing the great cosmic “f*ck you” that began in my early years.
That sad, scared, lonely little girl inside is still hurting. In her anger, fear and brokenness, she refuses to admit that she does not, in fact, have it all together. The hardest thing in the world, for her, is telling another human being that she is lost, scared to death and without a clue as to what the next right step might be.
She’s asked for help before. She’s been told she didn’t deserve it, she was not worthy, her needs didn’t matter. She’s been told she asks too much, her requests are unreasonable, she should find a way to just be grateful for the scraps she was given and not ask for more.
She’s experienced rejection, abuse and neglect in too many forms to face. The last thing that sad, scared, broken girl wants to do is ask another person to meet a need that she can’t fulfill on her own. The last thing she wants to do is put her needs in the hands of another person, because she knows all too well how deeply it hurts when those needs go unmet. Or worse, when the one she has trusted with them intentionally uses her weakness against her to bring her pain.
Ultimately, this fear keeps me feeling overwhelmed. Because I choose not to reach out when I should, or I push away help when it is offered to me. I end up doing things on my own unnecessarily. There is no reward for suffering in silence, or breaking our necks trying to be superhuman. There is no prize for the longest to-do list, or least hours slept for the most consecutive days.
Trying to do it all on my own only hurts me.
The other thing that happens when I stubbornly refuse to ask for or accept help from others is that it makes them feel like they have nothing to bring to the table in our relationship.
It’s a subtle way of telling them that they are not needed. What they have to offer is not enough. Their contribution to my life is not valuable, it’s not appreciated, it’s not important. Truly, this is never my intention. But, it is the implied message of my inability to put my needs in the hands of another.
When I refuse to let people help me, I’m taking away opportunities for them to feel valuable, useful, needed—all the things that feel so good when we do something for someone we love. It’s quite selfish of me to keep those opportunities from the people who want to make meaningful contributions in my life, and it’s also quite unnecessary.
What I really mean with this behavior is: “I’m scared to admit that I need something from you. I’m afraid that you will let me down or use my vulnerability against me.”
If I were brave enough to speak these words, it would spare those who dare to offer love and friendship to me the confusing signals that come from my being so utterly human and also so relentless in my struggle to avoid admitting any normal, human weaknesses.
I’m learning to show my weakness again. To ask for what I need. To admit that I don’t have it all figured out. I know that I have much to offer. I also need much in return. I’m learning to trust again—one day at a time—and embracing vulnerability as a beautifully human part of who I am.
Author: Renee Dubeau
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina