What I Learned About Accepting Help When My Car Died

© Gerdi Verwoert 2016

As I mentioned in a post on social media earlier this week: “It’s been an interesting couple of weeks with a lot of soul searching on my part”. All that searching eventually led to my running into and then crossing the boundaries of my comfort zone 

Let me back up and share with you what led to my boundary crossing.

A couple of weeks ago my much beloved car suddenly died on me when I had counted on it serving me for another 3 years at least. It was why I had always taken good care of it and had it serviced regularly. All that didn’t matter when the timing belt ripped and pretty much ruined the engine beyond repair.

For some reason this hit me much harder than I had expected. After all, in the end it is just a car. It wasn’t like I had just lost a dearly beloved person!

A No Longer Needed Symbol

When I started exploring why losing it hit me so hard I realised the car had over the years become a symbol of two of my most important values: freedom and independence. Losing it somehow felt like losing those two core values.

That sounds dramatic and for a couple of days it felt like that too. It took me a while to realise that the car had only been a representations of those values.

I had bought the car almost 10 years ago when I was still living in the Netherlands and still working in an environment where I was not living in accordance with my core values. Back then, every time I got into the car I was reminded of this dream I had of someday living among mountains and actually living in alignment with these values.

All that became reality when I moved to Austria six years ago. No longer did I have a need for something symbolising freedom and independence for I was now actually living that dream. My car had to break down for me to finally and truly realise that. 

Asking For Help

While on my soul searching quest I happened to be also reading Brené Brown’s ‘Rising Strong’ and came upon a bit of text that made a light bulb go off in my head: “My mom and I aren’t good at asking for or receiving help.”

I suddenly realised I don’t do help! Well I do, but only in as far as I can help others. I don’t easily ask for or receive help and here I suddenly found myself in a situation where I was going to have to do just that.

When I found a replacement car that would fit my needs and was somewhat affordable I had to face the fact I needed assistance to get it. This meant setting my pride and stubborn wanting-to-do-it-all-by-myself attitude aside and ask for help. This led to having to face a couple of truths about the things I was thinking about myself:

  1. I can’t do it all by myself and am therefore incompetent

    Of course I’m not perfect, I know that, But I could try and come as close as possible, couldn’t I? And that included doing things by myself as much as possible and declining offers of help almost automatically, however kind, honest and sincere the offer may be. Somehow accepting a helping hand equalled admitting to myself I was not being completely competent. Funny thing is I would never think that of anyone else accepting help, but here I am.

  2. I set myself up for being hurt (i.e. I have to accept being vulnerable)

    When thinking about asking for help in my head I have this conversation going on about what those I might ask for help could be thinking. Since I’m not a mind reader this is a completely fictional exercise. When the news of my car dying reached family and friends several readily offered to help out. The chances of getting hurt (apart from my pride and that was on me) were practically zero. On the other hand, since help was offered so willingly, the chances of my hurting those offering by refusing their help were significantly higher.

  3. Doing it all alone is a sign of strength

    I’ve taught myself lots of things over the years. Anything from basic plumbing and electrics to the ins and outs of MS Word to building a website. This is why for a long time I felt I could do it all alone. Even, or perhaps especially as a single solopreneur. As such I pretty much feel like I have to make every decision myself, complete every task myself and be good at almost everything. This can be a pretty lonely position to be in. Why make it lonelier than it needs to be by refusing help that is kindly and willingly offered? Would I consider it a sign of weakness in anybody but myself were they to accept help offered in that way? Of course not!

Stepping out of my comfort zone

Looking back the event of my car breaking down forced me to abandon this very comfortable (and stubbornly held) space where I believed I could do it all by myself. I had to face the fact that I was not this I-always-have-a-handle-on-it kind of person after all. It required me to find a way to not only graciously ask for but above all to graciously receive help.

When I finally picked up the phone to utter the words “Could I ask for your help, please?” I had definitely stepped beyond the boundaries of my comfort zone.

Share your thoughts below and let me know what you think. Be as specific as you can when you share your thoughts. Other people, Mountain Seekers like you, will be inspired by your ideas and actions.

Thank you for reading and adding your voice to the conversation.

As always…

Go dare greatly!

(*) Brené Brown, ‘Rising Strong’, page 175, ISBN 978-0-8129-9933-4