It was tempting to wait a few more days, to see if I really needed help or if I could manage on my own.
But last night, I asked myself, Why wait?
And the only answer that came to mind was from my People-Pleasing past.
A Woman Who Helps Others
I grew up hearing, “Some things ought not be spoken.”
Although “some things” was an unwritten list, I knew it by heart.
And I knew that “needing help” and “asking for help” were most definitely on The List.
Because, of course, needing help and asking for help might be interpreted to mean that we weren’t perfect.
That we were failures.
So, I kept quiet about my own needs.
I tried hard to be a woman who always helps others but never needs help herself.
What Asking for Help Does NOT Mean
I asked for help today because I refuse to believe the lies of the People-Pleasing bully. All day, I’ll be reminding myself what asking for help does NOT mean:
1) Asking for help does NOT mean that I am a failure.
I may be in the midst of failing. But failing does not make me “a failure.” It just means I’m human.
2) Asking for help does NOT mean that I’m lazy (and should “just try harder”).
I may be trying harder than I’ve ever tried in my life. But I may be doing the wrong thing or doing the right thing the wrong way. Both of which mean that “trying harder” will only make things worse…faster.
3) Asking for help does NOT mean that I’m stupid or incompetent.
No matter how smart or capable I may be in some areas, there’s so much more I don’t know and so many more skills I don’t have. Believing that I should “know it all by now” and be able to “do it all by myself” is pride, pure and simple.
What Asking for Help DOES Mean
I’m also reminding myself, today, what asking for help DOES mean:
1) Asking for help means that I am learning.
Trying and failing means I am learning. On this planet, failure is a key part of the learning process.
2) Asking for help means that I value myself.
Refusing to “just try harder” once I recognize that I’m doing the wrong thing, or the right thing the wrong way, is a sign of self-respect.
3) Asking for help means that I am teachable.
Rejecting the idea that I “should already know ______” or “should just naturally be able to ____” is an act of self-compassion.
4) Asking for help means that I value others’ input.
Welcoming others’ experience-borne expertise demonstrates trust, humility, and receptivity.
5) Asking for help means that I choose not to do life alone.
Recognizing that I need other people reflects acceptance of God’s plan for me to live in community.
A Woman Who Asks for Help
I asked for help today because I’m struggling with a new situation that’s dragging me back toward old destructive habits. But I don’t want to slide back.
So I’m asking for help to make sure I don’t.
In this new situation, I’m not sure how to be my best self. Should I speak up or stay quiet? Should I take action or wait? I want to live as God’s masterpiece even in the midst of difficulty.
So I’m asking for help so I can be 100% me.
The various people involved in this new situation each have their own agendas, and People-Pleasing is trying to convince me to tap-dance to everyone else’s tunes. I desire to live in the center of God’s will.
So I’m asking for help to make sure I do.
If you’re a woman who only offers to help, here’s the truth you most need to know:
You’re created to be a woman who also asks for help.
I’m a Driver personality, and I have the lists to prove it!
I am constantly in production mode: check. Check. CHECK!
You won’t catch me putting things off until later. I’m not a putter-offer. Nope, not me. I just wait until I’m ready to do certain tasks.
And some tasks require me to wait for weeks. Months. Even years.
Recognizing Procrastination in Hindsight
I can’t tell you how many projects I’ve started with great gusto, certain I’ll finish them in no time, only to have them drag on forever.
The project that forced me to recognize that I am an unintentional procrastinator was my MA degree. I started it in 2005 and should have easily graduated in 2007. But I didn’t get my diploma until 2013.
Why eight years to finish a 2-year degree?
For the longest time, I had a laundry list of reasons:
The big move from southern California to the central California coast.
The new job teaching ESL, which I’d never done before.
Both kids becoming teenagers.
Launching a speaking and writing ministry.
My mother’s decline into Alzheimer’s Disease.
And so on.
And so forth.
But in writingYou Don’t Have to Try So Hard with Kathi, I recognized the real reason I failed to make progress on my MA for so many years. Every time I thought about working on my MA again, an overwhelming worry would paralyze me:
I don’t know what to do next!
Which is, of course, a statement of fear. But my #1 response to fear isn’t fight-or-flight.
My go-to fear reaction is to freeze.
And tell myself I’m just waiting until I’m ready.
The Problem With Putting Projects Aside
Here’s the thing: when I’m in the midst of working on a project, I do know my next steps. But then life happens, and I have to set it aside for a few days (or weeks or … you know the drill!)
By the time I pick the project back up again, I’ve forgotten where I was in the process. So, I have to spend hours and hours getting back up to speed before I can make a tiny step of progress.
And then, when I finally get some momentum going, life happens again.
Which means that the next time I have time, I’m going to have to spend hours and hours, again, figuring out where I was, only to move forward another little bit.
As a Driver, I don’t have that kind of patience.
I can’t keep doing the same things over and over again. I want to do things once and move on.
I have to see progress.
One Thing That’s Working
Right now, I’ve got multiple projects “in process,” and to keep myself from stalling out on any of them, I’m doing something startlingly simple.
When I’m done working on any particular project for the moment, and I’m not sure when I’ll be able to pull it out next, I grab a Post-It Note.
On the Post-It, I write out my next 3 steps.
Then I tape it to the spine of my project binder, like this:
I use tape so the Post-It doesn’t fall off and get lost. I put it on the spine so I can see it at a glance.
When I need more details than I can write on a Post-It note, I type up the list, print it out, tuck it inside the binder, and tape a Post-It on the spine that says “1. Read notes in binder.”
I’ve been using this method for several years now, and I couldn’t be more thrilled with the results. It’s increased my project completion rate while lowering my stress.
The “Next 3 Steps on a Post-It Note” method can do the same for you.
One little Post-It note gives you confidence: I DO know what to do next!
It creates momentum: I AM ready right now!
And it means that when you have a pocket of time, you can pull out a project and make progress on the first item on the Post-It note.
Think of progress as the pin that pops the Procrastination balloon.
Today my friend and coauthor Cheri Gregory shares how Perfectionism is a lot like her Dog.
“Against the assault of laughter, nothing can stand.” — Mark Twain
When our first book released, Kathi and I discovered that women tended to have opposite reactions to it.
Some insisted, “Oh, I don’t need this book! I’m not a Perfectionist!”
Others demanded, “Why would I need this book? Are you implying there’s something wrong with Perfection?”
Either way, they took Perfectionism very, very seriously.
We agree that it’s a weighty problem. But we also know that humor can lighten our hearts when we’re dealing with heavy issues. Sometimes, what you need most is a serious dose of silly.
So here, for your edification and entertainment, are a dozen characteristics that the four Bullies of Try-Harder Living — Perfectionism and his three accomplices People-Pleasing, Performancism, and Procrastination — have in common with my dog, Shatzi:
Shatzi spends half her day inching into the kitchen so she can lick the floor. The bullies, too, are watching—always watching—so they can sneak somewhere they don’t belong.
When I get distracted, Shatzi dashes upstairs and eats all the cat food. The bullies are experts at seizing one moment of vulnerability to strike fast and strike hard.
Once a reinforcement error has occurred (see #2), it takes days, weeks, even months to re-train Shatzi. The bullies also assume that if you’ve given them free rein once, you’ll let them have it again; they just need to keep trying.
They leave messes for me to clean up.
I know I’m biased, but I think Shatzi is beautiful. And when she’s groomed all gorgeous, I forget about the piles she leaves all over the back yard that I have to shovel. When the bullies are on their best behavior, they look lovely, too: Perfectionism looks like excellence; People-Pleasing looks like service; Performancism looks like productivity; Procrastination looks like peace. Only when we look behind them do we see the mountains of mess they’ve left for us.
They make me lose my mind.
When Shatzi goes on a barking jag, I lose my mind. She knows that all she has to do is stand in the middle of the yard and bark at nothing, and I’ll open the door to let her inside. Same goes for the bullies. When they start yelling inside my head, I’ll do anything — ANYTHING — to quiet them down.
They shed like crazy.
Shatzi has three layers of fur; she doesn’t “shed” so much as disintegrate. Daily. Her hair is everywhere. We’ve opened brand-new cartons of ice cream only to find Shatzi fur already inside. Even when she’s nowhere in sight, she leaves evidence of her presence. Ditto with the bullies — they just shed fear, frustration, and futility instead of fur.
They love distractions.
Shatzi has zero attention span. She’s like the dog on UP: “Squirrel!” She’s here. She’s there. She’s anywhere but here and now. The bullies run back to the past, “Why on earth did you…?!?” and dash ahead to the future, “What will you do if…?!?” never wanting you to focus on the only thing that’s real: this present moment.
They bark more than they bite.
Shatzi barks ferociously at any unknown source of danger…as long as it keeps its distance. But as soon as anyone comes close, she tucks her tail between her legs. The bullies look and sound all big and bad until you approach them with the truth; then, they cower and whine.
They take me for a walk.
I had to quit jogging with Shatzi because I hate any form of exercise she’s a yanker. We don’t refer to “walking the dog” in our family; we talk about “being walked by the dog.” The bullies love to take the lead in our lives; to drag us along at their pace where they want to go.
When Shatzi lays across my lap, she acts all warm and cuddly. But after a while, when I need to get things done? She becomes dead weight and won’t let me go. The bullies give me an initial feeling of comfort but r-e-s-i-s-t when I try to leave them behind.
Shatzi has cost me more time and money than I will admit. So have the bullies. But unlike my loyal furry family member, they aren’t worth a second of my time or a single dime.
The next time Perfectionism, People-Pleasing, Performancism, or Procrastination show up looking adorable and holding a leash in their mouth?
Recognize that they plan to use it on you.
Tell them, “Bad bully! No biscuit!”
And always remember:
“A merry heart does good, like a medicine”
Proverbs 17:22a (NKJV)
P.S. While I no longer have Shatzi, the lessons she taught me remain.
Break Through a Perfectionist Personality With Our New Book Club!
Kathi Lipp and Cheri Gregory have a new book available for pre-order now. You Don’t Have to Try So Hard will enable you to break free from the bullies of perfectionism, performancism, people-pleasing, and procrastination.
Click HERE to find out more and to sign up for the Book Club so you can find freedom from a perfectionist personality.
Learn how to break free from the pressure to perform.
Sitting at Kathi’s kitchen table, I unfold and refold a napkin a dozen times before making the announcement that’s been brewing for weeks.
“I’m resigning as the hardest-working speaker you know.”
Kathi looks up from pouring coffee. “Cheri, when I say ‘you’re the hardest-working speaker I know,’ I mean it as a compliment!”
“Oh, I know you do. And for all these years, I’ve considered it the highest possible praise. But now I’m realizing that you’ve been praising me for – and I’ve even been feeling good about – achieving a goal I don’t even value.”
“Huh?” Kathi hands me a mug and gives me a quizzical eye.
I sigh into my mocha. “I’ve never wanted to be the hardest-working anything you know. I’d far rather be the most creative…the funniest…the quirkiest…pretty much anything other than the hardest-working!”
Kathi knits her brow. “Then why do you work so hard?”
“It’s all I know how to do. I get started and keep working and never know when to stop. I don’t know how to tell if I’ve done enough. So I just keep working harder and harder.”
“Even though you don’t really want to?”
“Wow. I thought you really liked working really hard.”
Kathi stirs her coffee. “You know, in all the years we’ve known each other, I’ve been feeling guilty that I don’t work as hard as you.”
I mimic a teenage eye-roll. “Oh, don’t! It’s so not worth it!”
“I had no idea you were working so hard out of fear, not joy.” She reaches out and puts her hand over mine.
My mocha becomes blurry. “Neither did I. Neither did I.”
Breaking the Pressure to Perform
After Kathi and I had this conversation six years ago, I was overwhelmed by one powerful emotion: regret.
Regret that I’d followed Performancism’s orders to “just work harder.” Regret that I was so late in recognizing Performancism as the slave driver he is.
All the time I’d invested on “perfect” projects? Wasted. It’s not fair.
All the times I’d gone over-and-above expectations at work? Meaningless. It’s not fair.
All the time I hadn’t spent with family and friends? Gone. It’s not fair.
I didn’t know any better.
If only I could go back and do it all over again …
When you’re weighed down by decades of regret, it’s hard to breathe, let alone move.
But even amidst all the regret, something else was stirring.
I’d start to round up the usual anxiety for a new project and suddenly remember: I don’t have to work that way any more.
I’d start to mock myself for all the mistakes I’d made in a conversation and suddenly recall: I don’t have to impress anyone any more.
I’d start to fret about the many friendships I’d ruined and suddenly realize: I don’t have to keep doing what I’ve always done.
Relief motivated me to make new choices.
I told an authority figure “no.”
I said “yes” to something fun.
I didn’t fret when the something fun turned out to be no fun after all.
I added to my gratitude journal each day.
And I made one more seemingly small choice with enormous ramifications.
Re-reading the Gospels
I read through Mathew, Mark, Luke, and John again, slowly, lingering as long as I liked in each chapter before moving on to the next. Without Performancism breathing down my neck, I saw Jesus in a whole new light.
I spent months reading and re-reading the stories of Jesus’ encounters with women, seeing how Jesus responded to women, how Jesus made women feel.
I discovered that Jesus used the word “wise” to describe women who said “no.” (Matthew 25:1-13 NIV)
I stayed in John 21 for a full year, awed by the safety Peter — despite all his failures — found in Christ and Christ alone.
Looking back over the last six years, I am thank-full. I can see how small changes combined into big changes that have accelerated into huge changes. God is restoring the years that Performancism consumed (Joel 2:25 KJV).
And as I look forward, I am hope-full. God is “doing a new thing” and “making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland” (Isaiah 43:19 NLT).
Perhaps you, too, hear the incessant inner voice telling you to “Just work harder!” Maybe you, too, feel that your identity is based on your productivity.
If so, I want you to know that you can break free from Performancism.
In the process, you will feel some regret.
But as God does His “new thing” in your life, you’ll feel even greater relief which will lead to new choices.
And one day you’ll realize that although you’re still working hard, it’s no longer from fear.
From now on, it’s for joy.
Break the Pressure to Perform With Our New Book Club!
Kathi Lipp and Cheri Gregory have a new book available for pre-order now. “You Don’t Have to Try So Hard” will enable you to break free from the bullies of perfectionism, performancism, people-pleasing, and procrastination.
Click HERE to find out more and to sign up for the Book Club so you can find freedom from the pressure to perform.
Make it the most PEACE-FILLED Season ever!
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