For the past several months, I've been working on a project called Intern Playbook, an online course to help tech interns succeed at their internships. While I want to eventually talk about why I started working on this and what I want to accomplish with it, that's not the point of this post. This post is about one of the special things I've learned from working on the project.
I've always found it difficult to ask for and accept people's help, and it's shown up in all sorts of ways in my life. I'd tell someone who offers me a ride that I can just take the bus because I don't want to them to go out of their way. I'd insist that I can pay for myself when someone says they'll cover my meal. I'd feel like a burden when crashing at someone's place. I've slowly gotten better at this, but there's often still a lot of discomfort when relying on others.
I can play psychoanalyst and come up with a bunch of potential reasons for why I might have developed this tendency. Maybe it's because of my Asian upbringing. Maybe I developed trust issues as a kid due to losing my mom and being mistreated by my uncle and aunt. Maybe I'm afraid people won't like me if I ask them for things. Who knows. The narrative doesn't really matter; I just know that there's long been some deep-seated discomfort with asking for and receiving help.
In the Intern Playbook course, I instruct interns to notice when they have stories that stop them from asking for help from their teammates, like thinking that they'll be a burden. Funnily enough, I've become intimately familiar with those same stories when asking my friends for help on various aspects of the project. Earlier this week, I finished recording the video course and started working on collecting feedback and endorsements to prepare for launching the course. And when I thought about reaching out to my friends to ask them to take a look, I felt a lot of resistance — I didn't want to burden them or make them feel like they had to do it because we're friends. I put together a message asking them to take a look and tried to make it as clear as possible that I genuinely wouldn't mind if they were too busy. People still readily and enthusiastically offered their help, and I've just been incredibly touched by how generous and kind my friends have been throughout this whole process, whether it's providing feedback, creating illustrations for the website, or letting me use their apartment to film videos.
I sometimes tell people that working on Intern Playbook has been a rich source of spiritual practice, and one of the ways is how it's been teaching me to accept kindness. I've found that accepting kindness is an active practice that requires the vulnerability to trust and depend on others, and I didn't realize just how much I deeply I had built up the pattern of trying to do everything myself all the time. Since many of the people who have helped out with Intern Playbook are subscribed to this newsletter, I just wanted to let you know how much this all means to me personally. Thanks for helping me open up in this way. I am deeply grateful to call you my friends.