I was having a conversation with a
friend a few weeks ago where I told
her that sharing one’s issues in a
safe space is very key to one’s mental
well-being and she agreed with me.
She mentioned that a lot of
married women think it’s better not to
share because they do not want
their private matters to become
However, sometimes one needs to
share to get encouragement, and
other times one just needs to unburden
all they are dealing with by talking
about it with a trusted friend.
Oftentimes, seemingly complex issues
no longer seem as severe once you
talk about them.
Our conversation got me thinking about
my issues at my job at Arista in California,
how it led to my depression and my
return to Nigeria.
After my first poor performance review,
there were three reasons
why I was unable to speak with anyone
about my challenges:
1. I felt guilty and ungrateful.
Here I was at a job which a lot of Nigerians
and Americans would be
grateful to have, and living in a country
with basically no infrastructural
issues – 24/7 electricity, clean
water, and good roads-, and in a city
with great weather all year round,
very flexible working hours,
traffic-free commute to and from
work, and a very reasonable boss.
I assumed that if I told anyone back
home that I was struggling at work
and had a bad performance review,
they would judge me as having a
problem because people back home
in Nigeria were spending 4-6 hours
or even more in traffic daily,
had unreasonable and downright
mean bosses, low pay, and contended
with major infrastructural
issues (poor electricity, lack of clean
water supply, bad roads and
drainages, etc), yet they were still able
to perform well at work.
Meanwhile, I was practically enjoying
and had none of these issues to contend
with but still struggling at work and
I couldn’t even pinpoint the underlying
reason behind it.
2. I was afraid of disappointing my
loved ones. Every time I spoke to
my dad, at the end of the
conversation, he would always say
in Yoruba “Ise e nko? Se dada ki
won le file fun e” (How is your work?
Hope it’s going well. Make sure you do
well at it so your employers can file
the permanent residency papers for you.)
When you’re constantly being told that,
how do you confess your work struggles
and further disappoint your folks by
pointing out that any hope of having
permanent residency filed for you was
could not bring myself to tell any of my
loved ones that things were not going
well for me seeing as they had so much
faith in me and I did not want to let
3. I felt like an underachiever amongst
the Nigerians in my circle.
Whenever I would meet up with those
Nigerians, work would always come up
and I would hear statements like “my
boss loves me oh! My boss
cannot even do without me!” or “in my
last appraisal, I did amazingly well”
and so on.
They could have been lying or exaggerating
but it just seemed as if all the Nigerians
I was surrounded by were over-achievers.
They all seemed to be doing excellently
at work and I did not want to be the odd
one out so I refrained from discussing
my work problems with them.
In retrospect, perhaps if I had spoken
to someone, things may not have
escalated to the level that they did.
Who knows, maybe things would have
even turned out differently.
Telling others about our struggles and
pain points does several things for us,
one of which is it helps us not to feel
When we confide in others and find
out we are not the only ones going
through the situation we are in or that
others have gone through it before,
we feel less discouraged and more
hopeful. Elijah in the bible was suicidal
at some point in his life – this was after
he had done the great miracle of calling
down fire from heaven and Jezebel was
He told God he wanted to die
because he assumed he was the only
one of God’s prophets left.
There is just something depressing
about thinking you are the only one
going through or who has ever gone t
hrough your current predicament –
Although your situation may not be
identical with others’, you can still
find similarities between theirs and
yours because there is nothing new
under the sun.
However, once you think you are
the only one, you may feel like you’re
carrying the weight of the world on
When God told Elijah he wasn’t the
only prophet alive and there were 7,000
prophets still alive, he no longer felt
despondent. Knowing others have
experienced similar situations as you
makes you feel some measure of relief.
While in secondary school, I hated
being in trouble alone irrespective of
how small the trouble was.
But once there were several of us in it
together, I was fine.
Even if we were in trouble forever, I
would no longer mind because I wasn’t
alone anymore. It’s freeing and liberating
not being the only one going through
And you may never know of others who
are walking in or have walked in your
shoes if you do not confide in people.
Another reason to share is for encouragement
When you share with someone who has
gone through a similar situation or knows
of someone who went through a similar
situation and came out successfully, you
start to believe you can also successfully
overcome the challenge.
If for instance, you’re having issues with
your marriage and you think you’re the
only one going through that problem,
but you find the courage to talk about it
in a safe space and discover that others
have also gone through similar situations,
suddenly, the problem no longer seems
Sharing can reduce the magnitude of a
problem - a problem that seemed
impossible to solve suddenly becomes
solvable because you become aware that
someone else has successfully passed
On the other hand, if you do not share,
you may never know of others who
have passed through the same situation
or receive the information that could help
you overcome the challenge.
At this point, let me sound a note of
caution, you must be aware of your
motive for talking about your problems.
Your reason for sharing is not to elicit
pity from people.
I was at that stage at one point.
I did not talk about my challenges
for a very long time but when I
eventually started to talk about it, I was
only sharing so people could pity me
and say, “haa! Eeyah! Pele!”.
I just wanted to be the object of
everyone’s pity and did not want to
get information on how to get better
or solve my issues.
So back then I would lament about
my problems and once my listener
starts to give me constructive advice and
practical action points which I needed
to take to ensure my situation improved,
I would cut-off the person and go look
for someone else to listen to my pity party.
You need to be sure you’re sharing for
the right reasons, not because you
want to be pitied.
You’re the only one who knows your
true motive for sharing.
However, if you are sharing simply
to elicit pity from others, that’s a
Pity doesn’t do anyone any good.
I would discuss a few sets of people
to confide in, but first, let me address
the issue of fear. I believe fear
in various forms is the number one
reason why people do not confide
Fear of our private matters being aired
publicly, fear of being judged, fear of
being looked down on, and so on.
Fear Is never a good thing and your
motive for not sharing should never
You can mitigate these fears by
wisely choosing those to confide in
but there is no one hundred percent
guarantee that your matter
would remain private and never disclosed
to anyone but the benefit of sharing far
outweighs the disadvantages.
My master life teacher used to say
she doesn’t care if the person she
confides in spreads her gist as She
shares for herself.
Once she unburdens herself, she’s
achieved her goal.
If the listener(s) spreads her gist
then it’s on them and it’s their issues - it
has nothing to do with her.
We need to get to that place where
we are not afraid that people would
carry our gist, or judge us or look
down on us and say “ahn ahn so
this what you’ve been struggling with”.
Fear shouldn’t be our motive for not
That being said, here’s a non-exhaustive
list of the category of people you can
1. Professionals like Counsellors and
Therapists – If you can afford to, it’s
advisable to share with
professionals like therapists for two
reasons. First, they are bound by
confidentiality, and you are assured
of privacy, and sure that your issues
would not be told to
someone else. Secondly, there are
trained to help you work through and
work out whatever issues you might
be dealing with.
They can help unravel underlying
causes of issues you have been struggling
with and recommend actions that can
lead to results.
There are trained counselors to help
with marriage and family issues, and
there are therapists or psychologists
who help with emotional and mental
health issues like anxiety, depression,
phobias, etc. You have to do the work
of finding one who is both competent
and compatible with you though as
just like in every profession, not every
professional would suit your needs.
2. Online support Communities –
Thanks to the proliferation of the
internet and the widespread
use of social media apps like Whatsapp
and Facebook, there are now online
communities of people with similar
challenges set up to help one another
get through those common challenges.
Someone I follow on Instagram lost her
baby at birth and she set up an online
community group for women who also
lost children so they could mourn
together, comfort, and encourage one
another since they have similar experiences.
As said in part 1, sometimes only
people who have/had similar challenges
can empathize properly with you and
give you the support and encouragement
you need to overcome your struggles.
3. Offline support communities – they are
support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous
that meet in physical groups to help
those struggling with Alcohol Addiction
who want to stop drinking but
have been unable to stop on their own.
In such meetings. People share their
experiences of struggles and victories
with each other in the hope that together,
they can overcome their alcoholism
People are also assigned one on one
mentors or accountability partners
called sponsors who help to hold them
accountable to their commitment to
A google search can show you AA
meeting groups in your community.
4. Trusted friends and family – WE all
need to develop healthy and intimate
relationships with friends and family so
we can have people to confide in
when the need arises.
The biblical statement “he who wants
friends should show himself friendly”
isn’t just advising you to be friendly with
people and acquire acquaintances.
I believe it’s saying to be the kind of
friend you want.
If you want vulnerable friends, be a
If you want friends who give wise
counsel, learn to give wise counsel.
If you want an empathetic friend who
actively helps you to solve your problems,
be an empathetic friend.
You get the gist.
I think that if you’ve invested a
lot of love and kindness in your relationships,
you’re not likely to be fearful of your loved
ones spreading your gist.
5. The worldwide web – there are websites
like Quora where people ask questions
and other people respond with answers.
On those websites, Some people share
personal challenges they have and need
help overcoming, and different people
respond with suggestions.
The challenge with this mode of seeking
counsel is that you do not know the people
who are giving you advice and it’s risky to
take advice on crucial matters from strangers.
6. The holy spirit – if you are a believer,
you can speak to the holy spirit about
any and every issue you may be going
He’s the closest friend you can ever have
and he gives wise counsel.
He can also direct you to people you
need to confide in because we still need human
relationships and confidants to function properly.
I hope that we become more open and
vulnerable to the right people and do
not continue to carry heavy burdens just
because we do not confide in people.