“The greatest spectacle is a man striving to fight adversity; but there is another greater one: to see another man throw him some help.” -Oliver Goldsmith
Let me start by saying I love this quote. I have a teensy-tiny, itty-bitty issue with it, but I love this quote.
My issue is this- I think there’s room at the end for more, that there’s an even greater spectacle to witness. It comes in the moments after the offer for help is put on the table.
Does the person in need of a floatation device take it, or choose to keep treading water?
To me, there’s something insanely beautiful about being comfortable, or vulnerable, or humble enough with yourself to accept help when you really need it. Maybe that’s because I struggle with it myself so I admire it when I see the people around me exhibiting such a quality.
At the coffee shop this morning I ran into my friend Angie. We were talking and I was pondering out loud the ways I could magically will payday into the present moment... She looked at me and asked me if I needed money. At rapid-speed I felt the proverbial pull (or contraction, if you will) of tight butthole syndrome creeping up on me.
Tight Butthole Syndrome (TBS): the action at which someone, who is nervous, clenches their butthole in anticipation of a specific anxiety/nerve inducing event.
We don’t bullshit each other, ever. But talking about money and asking if I needed help? Double-whammy for me. Still, I knew she’d be expecting a real answer and as I am deeply committed to transparency, I was going to give her one. My body was fighting against letting the truth escape my mouth and all I could manage was a monotoned “yes, I do…”, but it came out. I was, however, already convinced that if she offered me something, I would say no.
She pulled a twenty out of her purse and told me to practice saying yes. And since I literally started writing to you all about accepting help and why we should do it more yesterday, I had to. It was too synchronistic. Needless to say though, it was an intense morning for me because I get really uncomfortable in those situations.
To those of us who constantly refuse help from others, why do we do it? Everyone needs it at some point, we know this. Maybe we’re even in a position where we desperately need it, and yet, we still refuse when it’s offered.
Most will chalk it up to stubbornness and leave it at that. While on the surface that may be true, I want to get into what’s lying underneath.
I think that if accepting help is difficult for you, along the way one of two things (or both) have probably happened-
1. Someone offered you help and you took it because you trusted them. Whether they held it against you later or didn’t come through for you like they said they would, the experience damaged your relationship with the person enough to the point where you aren’t willing to accept it from anyone else because you’re afraid it’ll happen again.
2. Or, you could be one of many who have been raised to think that if you receive outside help, you might as well strap a giant sign to your forehead that reads “WEAK”. And since whoever raised you was afraid of being seen as weak, you are too.
Maybe it was something else entirely? Those I’ve talked with typically end up trickling down into one of those two which is why I’m used to putting it so bluntly. But the point is that something bad happened after you accepted help from someone. Bad enough to impact you so profoundly that you’d now rather put yourself through unnecessary suffering than trust another person. Does it ever occur to you that they might genuinely want to see you get out of the pickle you’re in, no strings attached?
Work on taking the help, and do what you’re meant to do with it.
You know Bob Hurley? Started as a shaper, ended up with one of the biggest most well-known surf brands in the history of ever? He built a reputation for himself making boards for a few pro surfers out of a small shop in Huntington. Then, Aaron Pai came along and offered him the money he needed to launch his own brand of boards. Even though Hurley was seemingly unaware of how badass he was, he said yes.
“And he wrote me a check, right there, for $2400 dollars… Blew my mind.” -Bob Hurley
That was the beginning of the Hurley empire you know today. I’m sure we can all agree that the acceptance of Pai’s offer takes nothing away from the hard work he put in up until that point and continued to do after and it definitely doesn’t make him weak.
Imagine how different his path could have looked had he declined the help offered because he was more afraid of what might have happened if he accepted it.
What do you have trouble accepting?
Compliments? Signs of affection? Money? Words of encouragement?
We have trouble receiving certain things because we’re afraid of getting hurt. And we can try to protect ourselves against it all we like, but, life is not all friends and surfboards and travel and beer and pizza (a fantasy I indulge in every so often).
Every once in a while, someone will bail on you when you need them, the ocean will make you her bitch, and the things you’d like to satiate yourself on just won’t do it for you. You’ve got lessons to learn from them. Take your time to work through the disappointment, give yourself some R&R, and take your next step forward.
And when another person comes around and tells you that you’re an amazing human being, or gives you a hug because you need it, or writes you a check for $2,400 bucks to launch your own brand, try to accept it. Who knows what you’re denying when you say no?
"Be strong enough to stand alone, smart enough to know when you need help, and brave enough to ask for it." -Unknown
Some people will have fine print hidden in the contracts you write together. And some won’t. I believe if you let your gut lead the way and open up to those who you are close to, your relationships will deepen, your life will get easier, and you’ll start to see for yourself what they’ve seen in you all along.
The greatest spectacle, to me, is to see a man who is striving to fight adversity form an alliance with another, so they can fight it together. That’s where true strength lies.
by Alexa Francisco
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