I would say "help
May 23, 2008 6:28 PM   Subscribe

Basically, I want to talk to someone without feeling judged. Both now and in general.

I have two related problems.

1. When I get upset, it's very hard for me to ask for help, even from close friends. I am afraid that they will judge me, find my problems annoying, think I'm whining, roll their eyes at me, etc. This is not because they do this (most of the time) but because, clearly, I am an imperfect person with some irrational fears (like everyone else in the world). Frankly, even asking this question makes me so deeply uncomfortable that I am doing it anonymously despite the fact that it is basically innocuous.

2. I'm upset right now. (No dire emergency, but I really wish I could talk to someone about it).

So I guess I have kind of a two-part question, because I need to either solve problem 1 and reach out to one of my friends or solve problem 2 in some other way. What that other way might be, I am not sure. How to get over my inability to ask for help, I don't know.

I'm not that seriously upset right now, but it occurs to me that it might be a good idea for me to work on this while I can because I'm not going to have time when something serious does come up.

Thanks in advance for your advice. For this question, I can be reached at lamezilla[at]gmail.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (16 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
So, you're describing yourself as an annoying, whining, "lamezilla" with irrational fears. If you want people to not judge you negatively, you need to start by treating yourself with respect. And then tell a friend that you've got something on your mind that you'd like to talk about. Don't just bitch, but talk about the various ways you're thinking of dealing with the problem, and ask for their input.
posted by mpls2 at 6:34 PM on May 23, 2008

Therapy. I know everyone says this, but there's two parts to my answer. It might be overkill for your current upsetness, but there's a chance that you could discuss it with a therapist. More importantly, a therapist could work on what seems to be an issue with insecurities such that you'd be able to talk to friends in the future. (Or help you such that you could talk about problem 2 with a friend.)

Also: lamezilla? Not at all! This is not an uncommon problem. Maybe you're conscious of that, and were trying to be ironic; but my experience has been that the language I choose to use affects the way I think. Trying not to think of yourself and your problems as lame will help; recognizing when you use that language, either internally or externally, and reminding yourself that you're not, will also help.
posted by spaceman_spiff at 6:42 PM on May 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

To add to what spaceman_spiff says, I'll say (for the millionth time I've said it in general) that you should look for a therapist who gives homework assignments. For your specific situation, this would probably help quite a bit. She or he would help you break a behavioral trend first, and in that way help you get past your fears.

If it's too much to call a friend and say, 'See, I have this irrational fear, so I don't talk to my friends when I'm upset', then it's almost certainly a good idea to see a therapist a few times.
posted by brina at 6:47 PM on May 23, 2008

I know exactly how you feel. I'm sorry you are hurting. However, think of it this way...it is an honor when you trust your friends with the things that are meaningful to you. That's how friendship progresses...when people share more and more and are able to be there for each other. I normally am like you and *never* lean on my friends, but today I had a minor crisis, called everyone, and my friends were AWESOME, worrying about me, praying for me, suggesting solutions, and letting me know they were thinking of me.

Remember, when you feel this way, that friends *want* to be there for you! It makes them feel special, important, and useful. We all want to feel this way. Don't you love helping your friends? It doesn't sound like you'd ever be burdensome or overly needy; remember that people like to be needed and that's a large part of intimacy. Good luck, and let yourself enjoy that aspect of friendship. It's okay!
posted by frumious bandersnatch at 6:49 PM on May 23, 2008

It sounds like you might need to accept that if someone else judges you, it's a fault with them and not yourself. A close friend will not judge you. If they do judge you, they are not a very good friend. A close friend wants dearly to know if you're having problems and if they can help you in some way. If they do not, they are not a close friend. In other words, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by confiding in your friends. If they don't judge you, you have gained something valuable. If they try to make you feel like crap, then fuck them; you have gained invaluable information because you know that they are not someone you want to have an emotional investment in.

This will probably take a while to internalize, but everyone has to learn it at some point or else feel paranoid forever. It always hurts to find out that someone is not a true friend, but you will always be better off in the end for having found that out. As much as it sucks, some people see their friends as merely people they go do activities with and borrow things from -- they have no concern for their friends as actual people. If that turns out to be one of your close friends, it doesn't say ANYTHING about you. Those are the people you need to weed out, or at the very least, identify so you don't get hurt.

It sounds like you might have somewhat low self-esteem. If that is the case, this will probably be even harder for you to internalize because you might be inclined to always take things personally. For what it may help, stop and ask yourself this: Aren't some people seriously just dicks to undeserving people for no good reason? You have certainly witnessed this happen to other people before, in multiple situations. Some people are just not very nice, some people are very judgmental, some people have issues. Do you blame all the people they are mean to, or do you blame the person who acts mean? And doesn't everyone, no matter how good a person they are, have a story where they have been mistreated by someone like that?

Now, consider this: Sometimes you are the target of those kinds of people, too; it's not that you deserve it when people behave that way towards you. Why would you blame the bully in those other situations, but not in your own? If you go to a friend with a problem, are you the bad person when they are judgmental of you, or is your "friend" the one with the issue?

I hope this is helpful.
posted by Nattie at 6:52 PM on May 23, 2008 [2 favorites]

Think of the help you would offer a friend if they asked. Recognize that they would do the same for you.

Now think of the many, many different ways that a friend could ask for your help. Recognize that you're allowed to ask in any of those ways.
posted by nebulawindphone at 6:58 PM on May 23, 2008

I have to say, I find this objective somewhat quixotic -- and I think that's positive, sort of. It seems to me that we invariably judge one another, and that many times we want to be judged -- to have our conduct evaluated by some external standard, or to have how others have treated us examined in such a light. We just don't want it done shallowly, unsympathetically, unconstructively, or (perhaps what's most important) negatively.

Some people are better at this than others, and most of the people you consider your friends are probably pretty good at it (family, now that's another matter). But the answer has got to vary enormously depending on the question you put to them. If I am airing some insecurity that isn't entirely unreasonable, I'll get a fairer and more constructive hearing than something that's clearly paranoid -- or something that I've done that's kind of dicey.

The upshot, for me, is that you can relax about judgment to some degree by accepting that it's nearly inevitable, and by beginning to distinguish among the likely of a negative reaction by focusing more acutely on the topic at hand. Shorter version: your fear isn't irrational, but you've got to learn that its rational magnitude is going to vary enormously by circumstance, and it's probably useless to generalize about how anyone will react to the news that you're upset in a way that's divorced from the precise nature of your concern.

I feel like Dr. Phil just gave me a wedgie.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 7:48 PM on May 23, 2008

Group counseling (if a therapist thinks it's okay, of course) might be a good way to practice talking about your fears and asking for help. Group counseling worked wonders for me.
posted by All.star at 9:11 PM on May 23, 2008

Gah, yeah, hate to pile on, but therapy. The first thing I tackled in therapy wasn't really my anxiety per se, or my panic attacks, or anything huge. The first thing that I dealt with was that, when riding the bus (primarily to and from therapy) I was obsessed with keeping my body as small as possible for fear of being in somebody's way or space, and thus being judged as a big, entitled, all bus space-made weirdo. I thought bus strangers would think I was lazy, spread out, and generally wretched and judgeable because I took up too much space on the bus.

It feels nuts to type that all out now, and certainly, bus space was never my consuming issue, but it was a piece of my much bigger issue with a truly deep fear of being judged and found weak and wanting. The bus nonsense was a symptom of that much bigger fear. It was representative of how terrified I was of anyone I cared about thinking I was not strong/smart/capable/sane/together/generally and happy and okay enough. I'm still dealing with that bigger issue, and there's still a lot of work to do, but the first thing I had to deal with was the bus, and I never would have started getting better without a therapist to help me. What you're saying sound awfully familiar to me; I suggest you get somebody to help you through this stuff.
posted by mostlymartha at 11:41 PM on May 23, 2008

I want to talk to someone without feeling judged. Both now and in general.

I've been described as judgemental. I'm one of those guys that wants to fix everything - if there's a problem and I see a probable solution - I'm going to point it out. Where this gets interpreted as being judgemental, is when I see a way of fixing it on the venter's end. I'm not attacking that person, I'm doing a something that comes very naturally to me - fixing problems. Unfortuantely, this sometimes gets interepted as "why aren't you on my side?" The person that I experienced this with, I cared deeply about - I was always on thier side - but she felt attacked anyways.

So if the person you want to talk to talk to is anything like me you need to tell them Please don't try to solve this problem for me and I'm just really looking for emotional support here.

I'll send good thoughts your way.
posted by bigmusic at 9:54 AM on May 24, 2008

Another reason for therapy is, if you have not been in the habit if asking for help, then your friends may think of you as a person without problems, and, well, sounds like you're already in knots about putting yourself out there.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 9:56 AM on May 24, 2008

On the "tough love" side, I once had a friend say to me (in the midst of a similar lamezilla attack, and in the context of a semi-private joke), "Reality check: you are not the piece of shit in the middle of the floor!" Brutal, but it framed quite dramatically exactly how I was thinking about myself, and it got right to the point of it for me: Asking for help when I need it will not "out" me as the repulsive disgusting thing in the middle of the that no one wants to touch.

And on the gentler side, whenever I am feeling the way you describe, I try to imagine how I would respond if my daughter were to come to me feeling that way. Then I try to take all the love and compassion and gentleness I would easily give to her in that situation and (much harder) give it to myself.

The tricky thing for me when I was in the grips of this was knowing my audience. Often I would feel compelled to unburden myself to the judgiest, triggeringest person around -- which would thereby deliberately confirm my suspicions that, yes, my problems were stupid and annoying and I was lame for not being able to handle them myself. But once I recognized the pattern of these things and started opening up to the people around me who were genuinely willing to listen, encourage, and help, it became much easier to be kind to myself, to ask for help, and to not be thrown or swayed by those who might (real or imagined) judge me for it.
posted by mothershock at 10:01 AM on May 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

[ugh -- should be in the middle of the FLOOR that no one wants to touch.]
posted by mothershock at 10:02 AM on May 24, 2008

(And if you're feeling distressed to the point that you can't help yourself, there are non-judgemental folk at the end of the telephone/email at Samaritans in the UK, or befrienders if you're elsewhere. You don't have to be suicidal to call the Samaritans; they're there to listen and chat things through your feelings with you, regardless of how undeserving you think you might be.)
posted by 4eyes at 10:58 AM on May 24, 2008

Is there a crisis line or helpline you can call? In my area there are a few 24-hour crisis intervention services that help people with problems just like yours. They will listen patiently to what you have to say without judging you and may even be able to recommend additional resources and assistance.

I am a trained crisis intervention specialist, so please let me know if there's anything I can help you with. I can even help you find crisis or help lines in your area. MeFi mail me or ask the mods for my e-mail address.
posted by mynameismandab at 12:07 AM on May 25, 2008

note from the OP "could you drop a comment in the thread thanking the people who posted for their time, thought, and kind words on my behalf?"
posted by jessamyn at 9:17 AM on May 27, 2008

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