“Don’t try to fix, try to love”
I hate not being able to do things because of my anxiety. When I say “I can't do that” it means I’ve tried. It means I’ve given it everything I had and then some. It means I already beat myself up mentally over the failure. It means I already know I'm letting people down.
You don’t have to tell me that.
“Don’t try to fix, try to love.” A friend of mine said that the other day, in reference to how another friend of ours approaches life. I love that phrase and wish more people would live by it.
Because here’s the thing: when I say I’ve tried, for example, to go to an event, and couldn’t, I mean it. I mean that I know that I physically cannot go in the same way that I know I physically cannot lift a hundred pounds over my head. When people try to “fix” and offer suggestions to help me, they’re not helping. Even if they have the best intentions, what they are really saying is “I don’t think you’ve tried hard enough.”
What really helps is love. What really helps is when people say they understand, they respect my decision, and ask if they can do anything for me. Let me tell you what I need in that moment. Give one if I say I need a hug. Understand that I'm not rejecting you if I say I need to be alone.
In a way, when people “love” they also “fix.” No, they can't always make it so I can go to the event. They can't always make it so I can lift that hundred pounds. Sometimes, with their help, I can. Sometimes I can't. But by being willing to listen, they are reminding me that they understand I'm not making excuses. They are taking away much of the anxiety and shame I am feeling. Even if the problem is not fixed in their eyes, it’s a whole heck of a lot better in mine.
Think about it this way: let’s pretend you broke your leg, but you were supposed to run a marathon with a friend. You trained for it, you thought you were ready, but now, you obviously can't. Imagine if your friend came over and said, “have you considered hopping on one foot for the whole thing?”
You’d be frustrated, probably mad. Even if your friend meant well and wanted to make sure you wouldn’t be missing out. Even if your friend knew someone that ran a marathon on one leg and thought it might work for you too. You would still be mad, because in that moment, it looks like your friend is ignoring you and thinking only of the marathon you were both looking forward to. What if your friend said it was okay and offered to watch a movie with you instead, wouldn’t that be better? Wouldn’t you feel loved? Wouldn’t you feel less like you were disappointing them, letting them down, becoming a burden?
Things happen, plans change. Sometimes it’s obvious, like a broken leg. Sometimes, it’s less obvious, like anxiety. Either way, be understanding of the situation, listen to the person’s needs. Don’t try to fix for them what they already know can't be fixed.
Loving validates. Fixing belittles.