Sometimes People Who Need Help Look A Lot Like People Who Don’t Need Help

by Laura Shiff

As someone who has always prided myself on being an overachiever, one of the hardest things in the world to do was admit I needed help.(My life motto was once “Give it 110%, otherwise, what’s the point?” Super healthy, obviously.)

With my very all-or-nothing view of things, it probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise that I suffered from a lot of anxiety. Whether it was school, or work, or friendships — or as I got older, my marriage, my kids, and my house — I was so set on making sure everything was always taken care of, everything was perfect … or at least that it appeared that way. And I think that’s something a lot of us want to portray to people, that everything in our lives is great, especially when it comes to something like social media.

The problem with social media, however, is the fact that you only get a very small glimpse into the very best parts of that person’s life. They don’t show you their bad days, their moments of impatience, their feelings of inadequacy, their struggles. And why would we? That picture of my amazing vacation is a lot more interesting than me crying in the shower, or cleaning poop off the wall that my toddler chose to use as a crayon (we’ll save that story for another day).

Listen, I’m far from perfect, but my life looks pretty put together from the outside — I have two sweet boys, a successful writing career, a beautiful house, a great husband — from the outside it definitely could be something to be jealous of. But that’s the thing about people’s lives, for the most part, you are on the outside.

You have no idea the type of stuff people struggle with inside the comfort of their own homes, let alone inside the dark corners of their own minds.

That beautiful Instagram photo of my son playing on the lakeshore? Looks like I’m living the fabulous life, when in reality being out in public was the only way I could get myself to stop having panic attacks. That peppy mom’s group message? Seems like I am always so carefree, when it was actually posted while I sat in the waiting room at my psychiatrist’s office.

It’s so easy to look at the carefully curated version that someone shares with you and think, “Wow, they have it all together. They are such a great mom/wife/friend/housekeeper/businesswoman/insert whatever role here, and I am not. What am I doing wrong? Why am I always failing?” But remember, they don’t have it all together. And they fail, too. And more than likely, they sometimes have to get on the ground and scrub shit off their walls (just me?).

Now I’m not saying to start posting all of your mommy meltdowns to Instagram (unless you want to, then that’s fine, just tag me). Rather I’m proposing that we stop living such outwardly beautiful lives, then crawl into our beds at night, unable to sleep because our worries claw away at us from the inside. How can we expect people to see that we need help if we are so afraid to ever look like we need help?

If you are struggling, still have a friend over for company but leave those dirty dishes in the sink and refuse to hide all the unfolded laundry. If you need to get out of your head and out of your house, still show up to that coffee date or walk with your neighbor even if it means three-day-old pants and so much dry shampoo your hair is five shades lighter.

When we show up authentically, we create space for other people to be authentic, too. Let’s stop putting a filter on our lives and realize that it’s okay to not be okay. We need to start putting ourselves out there, especially our ugly parts, and stop being afraid that we will be rejected by the ones we love. And if we are rejected by some friends during our times of need, were they really friends to begin with?

I am here to say that it’s okay to ask for help, whatever that might look like for you at that moment: someone to watch your kids for an hour, a dog walker, a wonderful woman who cleans your house, a great therapist, or even just someone to come over and keep you company.

Reach out even if it’s hard. Ask for help even if you don’t want to. Allow yourself to be raw and real. Show up anyway. Life is hard enough already, let’s make it a little easier for each other.