The Art of Being Vulnerable & Asking for Help

Ok, let’s just get this out of the way.

Do you know anyone who’s engaged or thinking about getting engaged?

I’ve been working on some AWESOME new content for my wedding site, Idojour including a guide with over 175 of the best wedding planning websites, apps, tools and shops that people are raving about.

If you know someone who’d be interested in this kind of stuff, would you mind sharing this link with them?

Here it is: http://www.idojour.com

I HATE asking for favors. Don’t you?

But my marketing assignment for this week was to manually leverage my existing network and ask for referrals.

You see, since last week didn’t exactly go as planned (see project make $1000) with more email un-subscribers than subscribers, I found myself unproductively jumping from tactic to tactic in a state of frustration and desperation.

That’s when I decided to sign up for a course designed to help entrepreneurs like myself grow their online businesses.

I spent all weekend studying the modules and putting together a piece of free content that I could use to entice site visitors to sign up for the email list: Welcome Gate

Then, per teacher Bryan’s instructions, I got to work promoting the site. I had to:

  • Personally reach out to any old wedding contacts I had inviting them to look at Idojour.
  • Post a request for referrals on the Hackerella and Idojour Facebook pages, my personal Facebook page, Twitter, Google Plus and LinkedIn.
  • Update my email signatures to refer people to the site.
  • Mention the project to people I happened to be chatting, emailing or text messaging with.
  • Email or tweet every single vendor mentioned in the free guide to let them know that I had included their site in my wedding resource book.

After just one afternoon of hustling, I got 6 new subscribers. I know, 6 is a tiny number and it’s nowhere near where I need to be, but it was a big win and I was grateful for the results.

In spite of my spike in subscribers (current count 502), the whole exercise was PAINFUL. I did not feel comfortable reaching out to my personal network to ask for help.

I felt stupid sending emails with a signature that said “check out my latest project on Idojour!” (I deleted many of them), and I was embarrassed to hit the share button. With every email that I sent and every share and tweet I posted, I couldn’t help but allow the worry and self doubt to invade my brain.

Am I lame for doing this? What are people going to think? Is my work terrible? Am I a total fraud?

What is it about asking for help that’s so hard anyway?

I know I’m not alone here. There are a lot of us who won’t ask for directions, favors, discounts, raises, help with an assignment or assistance when we’re sick (and there are also a lot of us who do ask, and guess what – they usually get what they want.)

The simple answer is that asking makes us vulnerable. We look at it a sign of weakness, like we’re relinquishing control, owing a debt, or looking for pity or mercy. It’s not an easy place to be.

To understand why, let’s explore what it means to be vulnerable.

On Shame, Vulnerability and Asking for Help

Do you know what the difference between guilt and shame is? According to author and researcher Brene Brown, it’s this:

Guilt: I did something bad

Shame: I am bad

Brown’s fascinating research on shame and vulnerability (you can watch her popular TED talk here) looks into how shame can be such a traumatic emotion – more so than guilt, fear or uncertainty. She calls it “lethal” because it directly affects our self confidence and sense of worth. In turn, it diminishes the way we perceive ourselves and our place in the world.

Without realizing it, we see, hear, and use shame every day. There’s public shaming, name calling, trolling, bullying, and gossiping. And then there are the little things we do and say that don’t seem like a big deal, but they perfectly embody this “shame culture”.

I’m such an idiot. I’m too fat. I didn’t get anything done today. Why do you always have to be such a jerk? He’s the quiet one. She’s a huge gossip. All he cares about is work.

When we say things like that, especially to or in front of our children, the idea that we’re not good, smart, brave, driven, nice, or anything enough starts to sink in, and as we go through life, we find it harder than ever to let ourselves be vulnerable or courageous or brave enough to ask for help.

And that’s exactly what I felt this week. That I am not good enough to pull this off. That I have no business reaching out for help.

The reality is, I’m working hard on a challenging project that means a lot to me, I’m giving it my best, and need some help getting the word out.

People are excited for me and willing to help. I know this, and yet I struggle to shake the defeating thoughts.

What, then, is the antidote to shame?

It’s empathy.

It’s acknowledging the emotion, responding honestly, and sharing your story with people that you trust can empathize with you, which is exactly what I forced myself to do these last few days. I’m calling it for what it is, talking about it with friends, writing about it here, and it’s helping.

I’ll end now with a quote by Theodore Roosevelt that’s had a profound impact on me, also introduced to me by Brene Brown in her wonderful book, Daring Greatly:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

I suppose that I am in my own little arena. And people who step into the arena – whatever that arena happens to be – get kicked around and beaten up, sometimes a little, sometimes a lot. It’s uncomfortable and scary and hard because our nature is to seek safety and acceptance and belonging. There are so many moments when quitting seems like the merciful thing to do.

But we have to keep going because it’s not the critic who counts and there is no effort without error and shortcoming.

And with that, it’s back to wedding mode I go.

So. Do you know anyone who’s planning a wedding?

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