This fall, Shauna Niequist’s, Present Over Perfect inspired me to clean out my closet, which in turn inspired me to clean out my life. This seemed like an exciting and manageable task for about ten seconds, before I collapsed into a pile of panic and discouragement amid my newly-formed piles of kid-papers, trinkets, and mismatched socks (where do they all go?) Where do I begin? How will I know when I’m done? Where did all this stuff come from and where does it belong??

I might have been able to answer these questions all on my own but I recognized I was near my limit, and the longer I hung out there by myself, the more stressed I would feel and the further I’d get from my noble intentions. It’s this stress that makes us lose our courage to purge and make room for change. And then the school papers, stamped museum coins, and movie ticket stubs get shoved back in the cabinet where they came from.

So, for the third time in the six years I’ve known her, I reached out to Suzanne van Dyck of Storied Space Interiors to guide me along this cliff’s edge. Beyond Suzanne’s talent, professionalism, kindness, and the sense of spaciousness and grace she brings into my life, asking Suzanne into my home has been a lesson in vulnerability and trust.

Humans build shields and walls to protect our vulnerable hearts from shame. We amass possessions, act cool and collected, pretend we understand the math homework—all to avoid someone knowing the truth about us. Our physical and mental response to the speed of this life is to feel busy and burdened. These walls we build to protect ourselves only keep us from each other, compounding our anxiety and disconnection. We try to fill the void or our loneliness with more of the wrong things: more gloss, more false confidence. The cycle repeats.

What Yellow Parachute shares with Storied Space Interiors is a commitment to helping clients make room for what matters.To put down the shields and break down the walls; to get rid of false idols and symbols of success. By focusing on the family—or student—in a personal way, we help clients define for themselves what kind of life they want, instead of following the rules of a life society tells them they’re supposed to want. And what we find in the process is that most people want the same things: Connection. Self-actualization. The strength to serve others. Love.

I’m always urging parents to be kind to themselves, to let themselves be a human being as well as a parent, and to ask for and accept help wherever possible. Our energy and resilience is in a constant state of ebb and flow. The beauty of opening your life to new people—and accepting their help—is that your ebb (fighting with your kids over homework) might be someone else’s flow (YP learning coaches <3 homework).

As parents, with so many depending on us, admitting to our vulnerability can feel dangerous. If we feel small, we worry that we’reinadequate. If we feel tired, we worry that we’re weak. That isn’t the case. I can’t say this enough. It’s only when we ignore our own limits that we risk hurting (snapping at a Little One for spilling the Cheerios) or getting hurt (reeling from our grief and guilt for snapping at a Little One) like that rubber band that has been pulled just a millimeter too far and stings the skin. For our health and the health of our families, we need to allow ourselves to be small, sometimes. We need to rest, to let someone else show us the way.

It’s hard for parents (especially moms, I think) to say, “I can’t.” Until we’re broken on the floor, unable to even help ourselves. But part of having HOPE is having a realistic expectation of what you can and can’t do. You can lose hope when you expect too much of yourself and others. If you set a goal—something you feel is truly important—and you take steps to meet it and you’re still not meeting it, then it’s time to ask for help. Even (or especially) if asking means making yourself vulnerable and changing your perspective.

Ultimately, escaping from the trap of comparison and competition involves slowing down, getting curious about perspectives, questioning doubt and fear and replacing it with knowing and confidence. We help our clients challenge past beliefs or habits and replace them with new ones. We give them a vision for prioritizing and decluttering—physically and mentally. When our clients develop a clear vision of what burdens or unburdens their hearts, they can learn to decide for themselves what to pick up and what to lay down.

Questions to ask as you consider reaching out for professional help in any area of life:

1) Do I feel heard by this person?

2) Do I feel validated and respected?

3) Will this process meet my needs—is there a dynamic plan that evolves over time?

4) Do I feel challenged to take steps toward my goal?

5) Is there a clear “finish line” so I can know when I’m done or when to move on to next steps?