There are many of us out there who like to ‘go it alone,’ who enjoy being independent, reliant on nobody other than oneself. It brings about a high degree of freedom. Freedom from constraints, freedom from attachment and a general freedom from feeling ensnared by others. If I had to rely on somebody else to buy me food or shelter me, I would be upset and disappointed in myself. I would feel as though I wasn’t fit for purpose, not good enough and I wouldn’t be happy.
I enjoy making things difficult for myself. I like to prove to myself just how far I can go, how much discomfort I can withstand without shattering in the tempestuous tidal waves of Life’s uneasy Seas. To me, everything is a challenge or a game; I can either be the best at it, up the ante, make it more difficult and learn more, experience more and become better at coping with everything in general, or I could go the easy way and not have to worry about anything which is too hard for me to handle. To me, learning is a great gift; I want to be as capable as I possibly can be in case the need arises for such strength of character at a later time. It fits in with the maxim ‘don’t pray for a lighter burden, pray for stronger shoulders.’ It makes sense; a lighter burden now makes an inevitable heavier burden a lot less manageable.
This Philosophy has been referenced in H²ELP before; it’s worthwhile investing effort in yourself now in order for there to be a greater payoff later, like in the post about speedbumps (which I obviously recommend reading). The harder you make things now, the easier they will get when you need to face them later.
The troubles arise when ‘making things difficult’ becomes ‘self-sabotage’ or ‘unproductive work.’ For instance, you could make your life harder for yourself by intentionally developing bad habits like alcoholism or drug-dependency. You could give away all of your money and possessions just for the sake of it, live on the streets, make yourself as uncomfortable as possible, and of course, that’s a mighty hard situation. You would do well to manage to overcome that, and perhaps even the experience would be a great thing for you. Or maybe not. Maybe that’s tantamount to an attempt at suicide. It wouldn’t make sense to do this, and it seems like a terrible, terrible plan. Yes, you might gain strength of character, but there’s an all too real chance of it going horribly wrong for you and you might forget why you even set yourself up in this position in the first place, breeding self-loathing and regret. And it’s simply unnecessary.
Understanding the difference between productive self-burdening and unproductive self-burdening is important, and it’s important to understand that it also depends on context. If you want to do some brain-teasers and puzzles involving some arithmetic and you work it all out in your head whilst you’ve got nothing better to do whilst attending the lavatorial facilities, then that’s great, it can help your brain, gets you better at a useful, everyday skill and, well, what else have you got to do in that time? On the other hand, if you have a job in accountancy and you insist on doing all the working out in your head without a calculator, then there’s a chance you won’t be a vital member of the company daft enough to hire you, even if you’re pretty good at it. In this sense, the same thing can be productive and unproductive depending on the circumstance. How can you figure out which is which? Well, it’s usually pretty obvious, actually. Be honest with yourself and find out when you’re leaning to choose the easier option over the difficult one out of laziness or practicality. The honesty part is vital here; as it always is.
Sometimes, the harder thing to do is to rely on others for help. If you’re in desperate need of something, and you know that your friends can help you out; if you need a loan, help fixing your car or something serious, and you know that someone can led a hand, then that may be the better option for you. Of course, if you can do without then that’s great, but if you might lose your house for it or your kids or your no claims bonus, or generally anything that would seriously affect you negatively, then there should be no shame in asking, sincerely and honestly, for help. For many, including myself, asking someone else for something is the hardest thing to do. I’d much prefer being homeless to asking someone to shelter me out of necessity, however, in the context, the harder thing to do is going to be the better solution.
These choices are heavily disguised; I could justify this and say “well, obviously being without is harder than just asking someone,” and it would even make sense, however, honestly, being without is miles easier than admitting defeat, admitting weakness and submitting oneself to the munificence of a peer. This is why being self-honest, as I say over and over again, is quintessential to our existence.
The same goes in relationships; how much easier is it to keep all of your problems, concerns and worries to yourself? Often, or at least for many, it’s so difficult to open up and become exposed and vulnerable, especially to someone close who similarly relies on you for support. How can you fulfill your role of being an emotional pillar to someone when you yourself need to lean on them? When you always say you’ll be fine, it’s nearly impossible to admit some day that you won’t be, even at your most fragile. It’s easier to become distanced, it’s easier to develop more space, but that won’t always help. It might even be detrimental, in fact.
From this, simply understand that you will become weak and vulnerable sometimes, you won’t be able to cope productively and capably by yourself. If you have somebody there who’s willing to lend you a hand, then take it. At your most destitute, if you’re lucky enough for a hand to sink its way into the murky depths of whatever shit in which you happen to be drowning to pull you out, consider yourself extremely lucky, take that hand and embrace it, kiss it, do whatever it is you need to do to show appreciation, and pull yourself up and out of it so you can start kicking ass and being yourself again.