In Peru, Sandra, offered me to help me shopping when back in the Netherlands. A nice offer since I could do with some help when shopping. But also a scary thought, since I hate shopping, am not good at it, and have bad experiences shopping with others.
Clothes shopping with grandmother for my birthday was one of those times. She always wanted me to try on everything I didn’t like: dresses, skirts and shirts with colours. Luckily enough ,after a few years, my mother suggested to my grandmother to buy me a book and go to a museum instead. And after that, all her birthday presents turned into happy experiences.
The fact remains that, already at a young age, I had developed a deep dislike for shopping and decided that nothing fits nor suits me. And I really don’t want to bother anybody with my mood and share my worries on my imperfect body and my lack of taste or imagination. However, since I recently try to operate more out of my comfort zone, and could do with a set of new and more colourful clothes for my assignment in Cape Verde, I reluctantly accepted Sandra’s offer.
Unfortunately, we couldn’t find a date before my trip. But I still needed those new clothes for work. And since I was open to the idea, an alternative opportunity, with another Sandra, presented itself. And it was great. This was our first shopping experience in the thirty years we’ve known each other, and for me, one of the most successful ever.
After I tried a shirt or two, Sandra knew what clothes to pick and the colours that would suit me. And she managed to make me buy clothes I would never have chosen myself, without picking items I would never wear. She explained to me things I should look at when picking clothes, things I wasn’t aware of. And I didn’t feel stupid or judged. Just very lucky she had the patience and the time to pick and choose and help me make a final selection.
On my way home it dawned to me. So often I see people struggle by themselves with things they find difficult (for most people this will be something different than shopping), including myself (and not only with shopping). Even though it might be easier to ask for help, I feel a kind of shyness about asking. So we struggle on, convinced that we need to solve it ourselves and shouldn’t bother others with our personal struggle, a struggle we’d rather not share. While I really find it easy to offer help, and don’t mind being asked for help, I am reluctant to ask for it myself.
So why is asking for help, at least for me, such a challenge? Has it to do with vulnerability? The wish to hide that I might not be perfect. Would you show this vulnerability to colleagues or friends?
Maybe you can lift a corner of the veil to really good friends and those few colleagues you trust. Just mention that you are not sure about skills, that you maybe don’t know the solution, or how to start, without having a feeling of shame or that you will lose face. And it doesn’t have to be in any kind of attention seeking way, or trying to be charming by playing with your insecurity. But I mean in an honest and true way. Exposing about your doubts, your strengths and weaknesses, without a hidden agenda. Honest and sincere.
But is it an option to do this more often? To ask for help and be less afraid to make mistakes, fail to meet the expectations of others or get criticism?
And even though I am well aware that sharing your doubts about your shopping qualities (and your body), and accepting the help of a very good friend can of course not be compared with doing the same in a working environment, it is for me definitely a first step.
I was also inspired by the interesting book by Brené Brown, ‘The power of vulnerability’, the experience has reinforced my search to let go of my desire to be perfect, to accept my own vulnerability more, and more often, without shame, to ask for help. And with regards to shopping with Sandra, I am sure another opportunity will arise, now that I’ve taken that first step.