I like to think of myself as someone who can do it all on my own. As best I can tell, I picked up this mindset from my dad, who I watched fix our cars, make repairs on the house, and do our taxes on his own for as long as I can remember. He’s one of those guys who just knows things and never seemed to need others to help out. I’ve carried that legacy through my life in various ways, rarely asking for help and almost always assuming that I can do a better job at whatever needs done than anyone else could. Sound familiar to anyone? As I’m sure you’ve guessed, and as I’m coming to find out, these beliefs aren’t always accurate.
This week it finally came crashing down. I’ve adopted the “Do it Yourself” model for managing my private practice finances since the beginning, but I’ve been feeling lost over the past few weeks. Like a hiker wandering in the woods, I’ve been telling myself that I’m taking paths that will certainly lead me where I want to go (in my case, endless Google searches and meanderings on the IRS website), only to find myself more confused and panicked.
So I called an accountant this week. Instant relief. To her credit, she said just the right things to let me know that I haven’t totally messed up my finances yet, and that she could definitely help me get things in order. A nice mix of reassurance and guidance. I hung up the phone knowing that I had some work to do before things were completely in order, but feeling confident that we could work together to get it done.
This experience made me think of the process that I imagine many clients go through prior to calling a therapist; you’ve likely been dealing with something for a while, trying to take care of it on your own, and then pursue more “expert” help. A good therapist will offer something similar to my accountant – support combined with gentle direction and suggestions as to what may be more helpful. While I think that therapy is much more complex than doing taxes (sometimes I wish it were that easy), the basics are very similar. Most importantly, you should initially feel relieved and hopeful that things can change.
So the message here is clear: no one can do it all. Whether it’s taxes, home repair, or emotional distress, all of us need a little guidance at one time or another. It can be hard to ask at first, but I genuinely believe that it takes strength and courage to know when you need help.