Today, I read two texts which really struck a chord in me.
The first was the first chapter of The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer. This book has been making its way up my To Be Read list and has, with the completion of the Kindle Sample, skyrocketed to the top. In the first chapter or so, Amanda, a singer, band-member, public figure and motivational speaker, addresses one problem which I fight with every day; the fear of asking for anything.
I’m talking the time, directions or even something as basic as a little bit more room if you’re sitting down on the tube. I’m sure anyone who’s been on a packed train will know the discomfort of seeing space next to your neighbour but refusing to ask them to budge up so that your hips aren’t diagonally lent against them.
She also immediately addresses one fear she had; when she was in a financial jam, she didn’t want to accept help from her husband.
And I realise that I, as well as many other people, do in fact feel the debilitating fear of asking for things I want, or even need, for fear of rejection. I’ve avoided speaking to lecturers if I didn’t understand a topic because I didn’t want to be told that it was something I should have known already. I’ve wandered, lost, around an area of a city because I didn’t want to ask for directions. I’ve missed out on opportunities and experiences because I’ve been afraid to ask for them, to show I want them.
I always see myself as a fiercely independent creature, and I always tell myself that I shouldn’t need to ask for things because I can get them on my own but not only is this wrong, but quite an immature view to have. I need to understand, and am beginning to with Amanda’s help, that I am allowed to ask for help when I need it, and that people will respect me for it. Hopefully if I’m not afraid to ask the question, it will help me broaden my circles; I could meet friends, I could discover new opportunities, I could find out things I didn’t know about myself. It’s all in the art of asking. I can’t wait to read the rest of this book and I want to thank Amanda Palmer, the wonderful, amazing person she is, for helping me realise so much about myself.
The second, even more poignant article I read was actually a blog post by Carly Heitlinger, also known as The College Prepster. I’ve been an avid reader of Carly’s blog for a long time now, sometimes insanely jealous of her life (New York, cute dog, perfect job? Yeah, I’m jealous), but this morning the post called “Want to Sit Together” reminded me why I loved her blog with such intensity.
This blog post was so resonant for me because it was about the opportunities that can be missed when you’re too scared to do things on your own. Starting from pairing up in school right the way through to Adulthood, it was almost like looking into a mirror of my life. I always used to be the first person to look to a friend when projects were announced, and still, even this morning, ask flatmates if they want to leave together for our lectures.
I’m so afraid of doing things by myself because, like Carly, I struggle with anxiety in social situations. It’s a pendulum at times; I have times when I’m confident enough to do a presentation with people I don’t know, but at others I will text a friend three times to check that they’re meeting me a safe distance away from the seminar room so that I don’t go in alone.
And I, too, have realised that I miss out on meeting people by doing this. I don’t talk to the other people around me as long as I have the safety net of a friend. I am, in a way, trapped by that anxiety, unwilling to go to society events unless I go with someone, even asking around for a companion into the town centre for a shopping trip.
Carly said, in regards to a recent trip, “I don’t think I would have gone five years ago.” I’m in the position of being five years behind, still very much entangled in the fear and hesitance that comes with social anxiety, but reading this has given me the strongest sense of determination that I can, and will, change. I don’t have to be such a recluse, or so fearful of new interactions. They won’t always inspire tight chests, headaches and an intense desire to hide under my duvet for days.
Carly’s post and Amanda’s book have made me stop and evaluate if this is the way I want to continue living and, whilst I know it’s important to maintain the friendships that I’ve developed and not become dependent on other people by asking for something, it’s okay to do the things I’m so afraid of. It’s okay to throw (or ease) oneself into a new situation without a safety net.
This afternoon I emailed one of my tutors and arranged to go over a recently marked essay. I’m keen to improve on my grades and pull them up to my target by June and in order to do this I’m asking for their help. It is, as she said, what she’s there for, and she was more than happy to arrange a time to do so.
I’ve also stopped arranging to walk to class in a pack now. Next year I won’t have the fortune of living with two other History students, so having the confidence to head onto campus completely solo will be essential. I cannot thank these two wonderful women enough for helping me realise these things about myself.
If you haven’t read The Art of Asking, I recommend you start. It’s brilliant, and is currently downloading on my e-reader now. And I’m going to leave you with the picture from the “Want to Sit Together” post. Hopefully you’ll have the confidence to make the same changes. Maybe you already have. Make sure to check out Carly’s blog, it’s honestly the only blog I read on a daily basis.