you can have my heart when you're losing yours.
- John Marc
In the last year it's become more apparent to me than ever that I take help from others for granted.
There's a sense of pride that flows through me when the words, "I don't need help right now, but thank you," escape my chapped, Pinocchio lips.
Maybe you're like me, in that sense.
And maybe (sometimes) we really don't need help.
Sometimes we truly have our shit together: our bills are paid, our kids are fed, our jobs are less chaotic than usual, our hair has been washed after 5 instead of 10 business days, we're staying hydrated and eating actual meals throughout the day, and we've managed to make time to indulge in a little self-care.
Give us a trophy, call the local news channel: we will be remembered.
And then there are times when we resemble a dumpster fire (maybe not with much of an atrocious stench, but I guess that depends on the whole shower situation you have going on).
The circumstances that lead us to the point of needing more than two hands, one mind and a single schedule aren't always limited to what we see with our eyes, though.
It could be that we need nourishment for our mental, spiritual and emotional being - to have another voice, experience, perspective and life outside of our own lend an ear to listen, or offer words to guide us through.
Whatever level it is we need help with, many of us would rather hold our own than ask for someone to hold it with us.
You guys, why is it so hard to ask for help? Why rid ourselves from this gift that is a special form of human connection?
Why is it - though we may highly recommend it or offer it - that we choose help as a last resort, a well timed "patch up plan"?
Before we figure out how to just do the dang thing without guilt, shame or fear - here are a few reasons we may rationalize against it:
1) We don't want to be a nuisance. Those whom we would trust to either lend an ear or drop by with some groceries might have something going on in their own lives - good or bad - and we just don't want to inconvenience them or add to their current load.
2) We fear it is a sign of weakness. I'm not 100% sure where this narrative originated (though if we gave it more than a 5 minute deep dive, we could figure it out, I'm sure), but I have a sneaky suspicion that some of it stems from social marketing, a filtered perception of what is "good / perfect / strong", and feeding into the belief that if we can't do it on our own, then the only reason for it is that we're pathetic and not good enough. We've been geared up to believe that if someone asks us for help, they are "lesser than".
3) We worry it will set us back on our goals. This could be personal or professional. Isn't it better to do things solo if you want to get anywhere worth going in life?
4) We might be a tad paranoid that the help we ask for won't meet our expectations or fulfill our needs, even if we make them clear as crystal. Might as well protect them from our high standards, right?
5) We don't want to be seen as a pushover. This goes hand in hand with the first on the list, I think. To be seen as someone who is taking advantage of others over something that might not even be a "big deal" in the grand scheme of things is not something we want remembered in ink. Who wants to be deemed "needy"? What are we - human?
Because of those reasons (and maybe more), we hold back on asking for the help we'd be better off receiving.
First of all...
I want to affirm that the feeling and justification behind each of these reasons are extremely valid.
There's a chance you experienced people turning away from your requests for help in the past. Maybe someone criticized you and labeled you as needy or a nuisance, and you just don't find the whole "ask for help" thing worth trying again.
Whether it be past grievances, disappointments, unmet or misplaced expectations gone array - it's okay to second guess whether or not you can rely on someone to help the way you need. I would just ask that you don't listen to that guess for too long.
You're not wrong, though: people can fail us. History proves it - heck, today could prove it.
others will show up in ways we didn't even know we needed.
Second point I want to make about the five reasons we don't ask for help: the opinions of others can come right off the table.
I know - much easier said than done. But once you practice the art of not giving AF daily, life gets a little easier to manage (with less static, the picture becomes more clear, right?).
Next, let's touch on vulnerability for a second because I think this plays a big part in whether or not we reach out to people. Though awkward and often leaving a bitter taste in your mouth - to be vulnerable is not weak, but is a powerful thing. It leads us to some of our greatest joys; and like most beautiful things, the risk of pain associated.
Keep in mind - we aren't sharing our darkest deepest secrets with the world - we are asking people who are on our team for help.
We are holding people who have offered help to us before accountable.
If someone feels weird about you asking for help, then that's not a you problem.
Brene Brown has written and spoken many times on the topic of vulnerability, and how it brings us closer to others - despite our fears of it doing the opposite. In her book Gifts of Imperfection, she wrote:
staying vulnerable is the risk we have to take if we want to experience connection.
Allowing yourself to know it's not just okay, but good, to invite others in, and to include yourself if not invited is one of life's greatest treasures I think we take for granted (or assume is tainted, because people can suck sometimes).
Steering into our expectations for a bit (specifically number 4 above), repeat after me: these people cannot read my mind.
Unsaid expectations are ultimately going to be unmet expectations.
And unfortunately, your silent treatment and shrugging shoulders are not going to hint to someone what you need from them.
Believe me - I get the whole telling people what you need and not getting it.
It hurts, you feel unseen, you believe that what you need doesn't mean anything, and so on.
Honestly - I think part of the ball dropping in this arena is because people like to love others the way they like to be loved. We assume the "treat others how you want to be treated" applies to literally everything, and in reality: it does not.
If this happens, thank them for even showing up when they did, and share with them what would make you feel loved next time around. Not to invoke guilt, but because communication requires us to actually communicate.
And just to top it off: the people on your team likely forget what you're going through or don't think to reach out - not because you are easy to forget - but because we are human and our ability to give attention to all people and events in our lives and the world around us all at once is pretty much impossible.
Don't feel your expectations are too high - maybe just say them out loud, rinse and repeat.
Speaking now to numbers 2, 3 and 5 listed: You are no less braver or courageous for not handling whatever it is on your own.
You don't need to "do it all" to prove you are strong; in fact, it's doing life with others at your side that makes you stronger - just as you make others better for it, too.
I don't doubt our ability to take care of business, and I also don't think it's all about strength or stamina.
Who cares if someone else wouldn't need help with it - in that moment, you did.
And guess what? Next week someone could be asking you for help with a similar situation and now you know what good it will do, and how to go about doing it.
Now for a slight change in direction
Check in on your people and adjust your assumptions.
Though repeated between the lines above that it's on the shoulders of the person needing the help to request it, there is something extremely helpful when we offer to bear some of the load before being asked to do so.
Making the intention to reach out if you know someone is in a difficult season goes a long way; and altering your assumptions of the worst can ease some of their worries, too.
And keep in mind, to lessen the overwhelm for both of you - offer a few specific options of ways you can help, and then say "let me know how I can best be here for you". It lets the other person know what your limits are, and lifts the sometimes burden of a somewhat "homework" assignment in figuring out what they need when they might now even know what would help.
Finally, some truths to be reminded of if someone is not available when you would like them to be:
1) You are not a burden.
2) Life is still happening outside of ourselves, even when we are not a part of it.
3) You are enough.Truly, don't listen to that whisper in your head that suggests otherwise.
4) It may not be that others don't want to be there - but they can't be there in the way you need.
5) You are worthy of having your needs met - and at the same time, we can't demand they be met by people who are incapable, unable, unavailable or unwilling to meet them. Know your people, and let them know you.
Out of all the hurt that has happened in the last few years, I found a lot of hope in witnessing and experiencing first hand the beauty of community when help is offered and received in abundance.
When things feel dim, and you'd rather hold your own, remember there are people who would love to carry the weight of the world with you - let them.