We live in an era where we believe we can have it all, do it all and chase every dream. But striving to be superwoman (or superman) is exhausting and lonely, writes Rachel Grunwell.
Words Rachel Grunwell. Illustration Janelle Barone, Makers MGMT
We live in an era where we believe we can have it all, do it all and chase every dream. But striving to be superwoman (or superman) is exhausting and lonely.
And underneath those superhero capes, many of us are struggling; some of us are just better at pretending all is well.
I think we all need to focus more on the idea that our best is good enough. Then ask others for a helping hand when we need one.
I’ve personally been working on this. How it came about is I experienced grief so severe that it felt like I was freefalling. A family member was gripped by depression so tight that I was so scared I’d lose them. Every muscle in my body felt tense and my head felt stuck on a washing machine cycle.
By the way, you can’t just fix someone with clinical depression and it’s a heart-wrenching thing to witness and feel helpless to help. There’s no magic wand that can instantly break through that dark and numb abyss. Sometimes, medication and intervention is the only solution.
So, while I was trying to stay strong over this situation, I realised I needed support also.
One of the hardest things for me to do is to ask for help
It’s terrifying. I’m used to being so independent and staunch.
It took a lot of courage to reach out for help and expose my raw heart and honest emotions. Being this vulnerable is akin to standing naked in a mall.
But I sobbed and sobbed and let the words tumble out. Then my friends knew how they could pick me up and help me through this slow waltz that is life – this slow waltz that can trip anyone of us up on occasion. We are all vulnerable under our shiny superhero capes.
I want to share this experience because I want to inspire more courageous conversations.
I’m not alone. A lot of us fear being a “burden” by reaching out.
We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to be bullet-proof and perfect. We hate being an inconvenience to others.
Ultimately, we all need to feel part of a community that truly loves us and “gets us” – not only in our polished moments, but when we feel afraid and lost. We need heart connections.
Let’s be honest, life is just about surviving a series of changing and shifting problems. So, we all need “a tribe” that can lift each other up.
So, let’s all work on strengthening communities.
One powerful way is to be a truly good listener – so you can tune into when others need help too.
I attended the World Women ’17 conference in Auckland where Dr Neha Sangwan spoke about the need in society for us all to have more honest conversations that create connection, health and happiness. She spoke about “heart listening”.
She said a good way to “get” how someone is truly feeling is to listen to not just the words that someone is saying, but also for the “underlying emotion”. Resist being distracted, interrupting the talker and give this person your full attention. Next, “get curious” and ask questions – “because “curiosity solves so much”, she says.
Then when you find out what is truly going on with a friend, the next step is to acknowledge their feelings and what they value (so they feel heard). Dr Sangwan says heart listening can be an “invisible bridge between hearts”. I’d agree because when you feel heard, you feel loved.
So, meanwhile I’ll continue working on being okay with opening up and reaching out. And I’m working too on my listening because communication can be a cure. This way, I can better help loved-ones too when they stumble in their “life waltz” and start freefalling.
Rachel is a mum, marathoner, writer and yoga teacher. For more, visit inspiredhealth.co.nz