The importance of community
This post was originally published on the 12th of January, 2021.
My favourite film of all times is Disney’s “Alice in Wonderland” from 1951. It’s full of relatable images of falling down a rabbit hole and being lost in a strange world where nothing seems to make sense; a sentiment I have related to in many stages of my life and occasionally still continue to relate to now.
One of my favourite quotes from that film, which describes me in such an apt way it’s uncanny, is
“I GIVE MYSELF VERY GOOD ADVICE, BUT I VERY SELDOM FOLLOW IT.”
If I had to sum myself up, this would be it.
Or, it used to be, anyway.
One thing I have always hated to do was asking for help and seeking support. It’s always been that way; my dad likes to tell the story of how one of the very first sentences I spoke as a toddler was, “I can do it on my own” (or, you know, the German equivalent).
And it’s something I have stuck to my whole life, in pretty much every aspect.
However, I have also been known to applaud people who have the strength to reach out and admit their struggles, admiring them for their bravery and vulnerability, because asking for help is exactly that: a sign of strength.
But as we now know, giving this advice to myself is well and good, but I never followed it.
Until I’d had enough.
2020 was one of the, if not the, most difficult years I’ve ever experienced. The pandemic did not go unnoticed on my business, and projects were steadily decreasing between March and August, until I was at a point where my income would not even cover my rent and bills. Lucky for me, I’ve always been good at budgeting (thanks, Dad, for teaching me!), and with a bit of extra help from the government in form of a SEISS grant, I wasn’t struggling to make ends meet, but I knew that if things kept on being that way, this would soon change.
This level of uncertainty was new to me and, in combination with everything else the world was facing last year, affected me more than I ever cared to admit.
When I applied for a six-month part-time project, which would’ve not only been a great new challenge but also a huge financial help, I put all my hopes and dreams into this one single shot.
And I didn’t get it.
At the beginning of 2020, this would’ve only knocked me slightly, but in November 2020, it broke me.
And so I did something that went completely against my character: I reached out and asked for help.
The Freelance Heroes community has always been a source of wisdom and kindness for me, but the reactions I received to a post I put up on the 4th of November exceeded anything I could’ve ever imagined.
Kind, supportive, encouraging messages kept pouring in; people connecting me with their contacts, asking for more info on what I do to keep eyes and ears open; arranging virtual coffee catch-ups with me and showing me one thing: I was not alone in my struggle.
And for some reason, something clicked.
I realised the importance of community.
As it turns out, “A problem shared is a problem halved” is actually true. Suddenly, the black cloud that had obstructed my ability to see clearly was lifted, light poured back in and I felt lighter than I had in weeks.
Asking for help is a sign of strength, and where I previously thought that was only the case for other people, I realise now that it’s also true for myself.
I know the battle is not over. But when the next dip comes - and it sure will -, then I’ll be armed with that strength, paired with the encouraging and insightful words I’ve already received, and the knowledge that help is only one post away.
If you’d like to listen to me talk about this a bit more, head on over to the Freelance Heroes podcast where I had a chat with co-founder Ed Goodman about what I would tell my past self, how one post changed an entire pillar of my character, and what ‘Freelance Heroes’ translates to in German.