I listened to a panel discussion about community recently. One of the speakers said that independence had been so ingrained in her that she couldn’t bring herself to borrow a lawnmower from her neighbor even though he had one, she needed one, and he’d previously offered it to her.
This really struck me. I’ve been that person. Growing up, I was told to keep my problems to myself, not to ask for help from anyone but my immediate family, always put on a strong, brave face. The very idea of a support group – or even of individual therapy – was so foreign to me.
I started my first business before the days of social media. There was no Facebook, no LinkedIn, no blogs, no Twitter. If I needed information about pricing, or finding reps, or managing inventory, I couldn’t just go online and look it up. I had to ask for help. But I didn’t.
I was scared of asking questions, of looking like an amateur (which I was). My insecurity demanded that I appear confident, and this prevented me from getting the help I needed. When I finally did ask for help – and subsequently took a business planning class – I had been running my business for three years. By the time I finished the class, I realized just how many mistakes I’d made, and what kind of effort it would take for me to get back on track. I was burned out at that point, so I closed the business instead.
Seven years later, so much has changed. I’ve become more confident with age and experience, and that has made me unafraid to ask for help. I meet weekly with an amazing group of eight women artists; we discuss our successes and our challenges, bounce ideas off each other, hold each other accountable, and provide support when it’s needed. We share what we know, but we also bring our vulnerability to the group – the sides of us that don’t know all the answers, the bruised parts that are hurting from a demanding schedule or unsupportive partners or work that was way more challenging than anticipated.
Out of this comes amazing results. One of us is about to transition from a full-time job to full-time artisthood. Another started a whole new business which has grown in just a few months. Two just signed a lease for a collaborative studio; the first class hosted in the studio has already sold out. And I’m about to finish my first, cohesive collection. Would we have been able to accomplish these things on our own? Probably. But having a support network means that we’re individually less afraid because we work out our fears with each other. With this fear out of the way, our dreams are that much closer to becoming reality.
Yes, all this comes from having a formal support network. Our little artists’ community means that we’re not in this alone. Because of our group, problems are solved that much more quickly; successes are that much greater. And we each feel that much more supported because seven other women want only the best for us.
So yes, I could probably go online and get most of the answers I need. I could work out my problems on my own. But I borrowed the lawnmower, and my life is all the richer because of it.