HOW I LEARNED TO ASK FOR HELP
(And why you should too)
It's a lie that I repeat almost every day. To friends, co-workers, and the garbage collector who gives me the stink-eye as I sleepily hand out the non-separated garbage every morning. But it’s a lie that I most often tell myself- “I’ve got this.”
The thing is, I actually believe I do. It’s not coming from a Ted talk inspired, fake-it-till-you-make-it, management philosophy. I believe that, in order to be efficient or competent, you should do it all by yourself. Without asking for help.
Until I realised that something was wrong.
I realised that when I am left alone and no one’s watching, I allow myself a good cry. Writing it off as sheer exhaustion was another way of not admitting to myself that maybe, “I haven’t got this.”
The realization dawned, one sleepy Sunday while I was cleaning out the bookshelf and found this story in an old self-help book, (that I swear I did not buy myself - one of the ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul” series), about being strong enough to ask for help, that it suddenly struck me.
The story basically goes like this. A lady was struggling with her bags at a grocery store when a cheerful 19-year old offered to help. She politely declined and continued to struggle with the bags when the teenager, very warmly, asks her again. The lady gave in and allowed her to help.
What we find out, as we read the story, is that this woman had been afflicted with a spinal injury some time ago that left her incapable of doing daily tasks by herself.
Had she admitted this to herself? No.
Not until the grocery store incident, anyway. She recognizes this much later when she gets home and tells her husband what happened. He is relieved that she was finally strong enough to ask for help and happy that the pizza is round for once (it’s usually always squashed because she struggles with the weight of the box).
The story ends with the woman realizing that her ‘perceived strength’ really wasn’t protecting anyone, except maybe her own ego. And that un-squashed pizza tastes much better. Wise learnings all around.
That’s when it got me thinking, strength is always associated with forbearance. Especially when it comes to women. The ‘strongest’ people I know are my grandmother and my mother. Personifications of restraint and tolerance. But is there more strength in vulnerability?
In this HuffPost article a ‘Super Mom’ talks about how she had a realization one day, after 8 years managing what she described as, “full-time job, a husband, 2 kids, a home, laundry, cooking, bill paying, grocery shopping, schedule keeping, you know the drill.” She had a complete breakdown and realized she couldn’t do it anymore.
Until then she used to, “try to figure out a solution until I’m blue in the face, before finally admitting to needing assistance, out of sheer exhaustion.”
It did, to me!
Once she communicated this to her husband, things changed overnight. “It’s not a weakness to ask for help, it’s a power. It’s the ability to say 'I’m not perfect and I can’t do it all and above all else, I shouldn’t have to.'”
The important message for me here was that, unlike the first story where the woman was physically challenged, this is a common everyday occurrence that most of us can relate to. Sometimes even our daily chores can seem overwhelming. But how many of us have the courage to come out and admit it?
So, after much introspection, here’s the conclusion I came to:
1. It’s important, to BE HONEST about what I am capable of, and in how much time.
2. Not asking for help is not ‘independence’. It may be an inability to communicate with the world around me.
3. I need to put aside shame, fear of rejection and ask for help. People respond better to vulnerability than a show of strength, anyway.
I’m halfway through step one, by simply acknowledging, “I haven’t got this.” Step 2 will be to actually ask for help. I have a feeling it will pay off.
To sum up:
"What happens when people open their hearts?”
“They get better.”
- Haruki Murakami, Norwegian Wood
Content Writer at Wysa