guitar-1201377_640A close friend of mine recently sent me a link to the You Tube video of Carole King performing ‘You’ve Got a Friend’ in Hyde Park. Watching this (which I really liked) made me think of the words of another favourite song: ‘Lean on Me’ by Bill Withers:

“Lean on me, when you’re not strong
And I’ll be your friend
I’ll help you carry on
For it won’t be long
‘Til I’m gonna need
Somebody to lean on”

What a great way to express the give and take that exists in a good friendship – and in any healthy, balanced relationship. Most of us get a good feeling from helping someone else – but what about the times when it’s us that needs the help?

He touches on this, too:

“You just call on me brother, when you need a hand
We all need somebody to lean on
I just might have a problem that you’ll understand
We all need somebody to lean on”

It can feel uncomfortable to ask for help – or just to admit that we’re struggling. Some of us grew up believing that strength is defined by self-sufficiency, we should be able to cope with anything, and that needing help from other people is a sign of weakness.

This can be a hard and lonely way to live – incredibly isolating. It reminds me of a tree that stands alone, rigid in the wind and rain, and which can be broken or even uprooted by a powerful storm. In contrast, a tree that sways in the wind stands more chance of staying rooted in the soil, bending a little now and then – and surviving because of its flexibility.

Trees in a forest have other trees around them which help weather the storms and, like trees, people fare better in groups that can provide support and shelter for each other.

One of the most powerful verses in this song (for me, anyway) is:

“Please swallow your pride
If I have faith you need to borrow
For no one can fill those of your needs
That you won’t let show”

This speaks to me of the difficulty so many of us have in lowering our defences just enough to allow someone else to see our vulnerability, and the expectations we often seem to have of other people – to be able to spot or anticipate our needs even though we might not be telling them much – or anything – about what’s going on.

Now, I’m not suggesting for one moment that we all go off and tell everyone about all of our problems. But, as Brené Brown says, we all need a small handful of people – perhaps three or four friends or family members – whose opinion matters to us and to whom we can turn when times are tough. The friend that sent me the Carole King link is one of mine.

From time to time we might need something extra on top of this, too – which is one of the things that drew me to the type of work I do. It’s still a two-way street, though, which means I also need to be prepared to ask for help as and when I need it.

I think we are getting better in some ways (albeit more slowly than some of us would like) at talking more openly about how we are – and seeking help.

A good example of this was the interview I saw with Prince Harry on BBC Breakfast recently about the Heads Together campaign recently launched in the UK:

As the song says: “…we all need somebody to lean on…”