You’re not ready until you are.
I read somewhere that when a baby duck is hatching you aren’t supposed to help them get out of their shell. They need to acquire the strength to do it themselves so that the duckling will be viable and able to withstand living outside of the shell. Perhaps this applies to all animals that must hatch.
Then I came across this great poem by @axiom.attic on Instagram:
This is not
this is your
shedding the shell
of who you
And something inside me opened.
I am the original pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps girl. I am the kind of woman who can do anything I set my mind to. And sometimes that makes me the woman who wants to help others do the same, which is a mixed blessing. I say mixed simply because I’m the kind of person who wants to crack open those eggs and shove those baby birds out of the nest to watch them fly. I want to see others make the hard changes to have the best life possible, and I find it difficult to watch people struggling when there might be a better way.
I’ve come to understand that the struggle is necessary.
I stayed in my marriage far longer than I should have because I just wasn’t ready. Some of that struggle was necessary to give me the strength I needed to make that hard choice. I needed that extra time for various reasons, and no one else could make me ready to actually be ready. It was my path, and it needed to be walked in my timing.
In the same way, other people have their own journeys, and as much as we may want them to take the action that might improve their lives, it’s not for any of us to say when another person is strong enough to do that. We could help them break that shell, but we may be hurting them in the process and harming their development. We may want to push them out of their warm nests into the wild world beyond, but if we push before they’re ready, they may fall rather than fly. And they’ll be the ones to suffer the consequences, not us.
It’s difficult to sit back and let others be when we love hard and invest heavily in those relationships. But it’s important that we learn healthy boundaries. It’s essential that we learn to support each other’s growth without judgment. We can certainly challenge each other, but it’s not for us to declare the timing of any changes that might be made, or to say which ones are best when we’re not the ones who have to live with those decisions.
If you find this idea frustrating, you’re not alone. It’s not always easy. But there are some things that we can do when we want to support someone’s growth without trying to force it.
We can hold space for their struggle. Let them talk about it. Give them the opportunity to discuss it and work through it without unsolicited advice, judgment, or trying to invalidate the experience. Let them feel what they feel.
We can help them when they ask us for help: we can be ready to provide resources when they are offered. We can even ask if they’re interested in more information. But we shouldn’t provide resources to people who have made it clear that they aren’t interested in the change we think they should make.
We can learn to differentiate between what we’d like for someone and what they may want for themselves. I see a lot of marriages that I think would be better off ending in divorce, but I don’t get to choose. It’s not my life and I wouldn’t have to deal with the outcome of those scenarios. I can see what I want for someone might not be the same as what they want for themselves. And that’s okay. I’m sure not all of them would want my life exactly as it is either.
We can provide support even when we don’t agree with someone’s choice. We think the friend should drop the loser partner, but they don’t. Instead of withdrawing our support and heaping on judgment, we can still support our friend’s decision and celebrate the relationship successes as they occur. We don’t have to like it, but it’s important that we support our friends in their choices.
While it’s tempting to help someone along in their decision-making process, and even tell them what we think they should do, it’s often not in their best interest. They need to find their own strength, and they can’t do that if we’re always lending our own instead. Everyone’s journey is different, and we can’t presume to know what’s best for someone whose path is unknown to us.
Author: Crystal Jackson
Editor: Angel Lebailly
Copy editor: Sara Kärpanen