I can do it myself! You probably think I am referring to my kids with that statement. Actually that describes me or at least it described how I used to be. I absolutely hated asking for help, I always wanted to do things on my own. I even trained for a marathon running every training mile except 3 miles by myself. I felt asking for help was a sign of weakness. I would even get myself into some ridiculous predicaments by not asking for help there are so many examples its hard to isolate one or two. Let’s just say I have broken a rib, just about swamped a boat in the Mississippi River and had heat exhaustion all because I was too prideful to ask for help.
Then this past year happened. I was too tired, emotionally exhausted and yes too weak to do it all myself. It initially started in small increments. I asked for help. I felt like a drug addict turning a trick to feed my addiction, seriously it was that kind of shame for me to ask for help, not that I would know what it was like to be a drug addict or to turn a trick, but the shame I felt, I imagine would be the same. Ok let’s use a shameful analogy I have actually experienced, it felt like when the waiter comes back with your credit card to a table of people you just bought dinner for and they announce your card was rejected. Ok pretty shameful and embarrassing. So it started small like a leak in a dam a little trickle here, then the water really starts to flow and pretty soon you have a gushing river sweeping through. That is what my little experiment with asking for help looked like this past year.
I asked my friends to help out my husband while I was out-of-town this past year taking care of my parents. Then I asked people at work to help me covering meetings, projects, assignments, and finally whole departments. All while I was in and out of the office. Next I asked a whole group of friends and family to help me fix my house so my dad could move in with us. But the coup de gras to my prideful past thinking was asking my business partner if I could take a leave of absence to take care of my dad during his final days, and then time after he passed to get it together. Whatever that means. And I discovered something during all this asking for help business, I was not getting weaker, I felt like Popeye – I was strong to the finish (because I was eatin’ my spinach). I really did feel stronger through receiving help from others.
It was a very long and sometimes strange road to get here from where I started. You know how it is when you learn a new skill, like when I learned to water ski it was so incredible, I wanted to ski everyday. I wanted everyone I know to learn to ski, I thought it was so liberating, so exhilarating. I really felt that same way when I shifted my paradigm about asking for help. I want everyone to understand the power of allowing others to help out. So I notice when others have the same affliction I did. Except as strange as this may seem it’s almost as taboo to tell someone they have the “I can’t ask for help” problem as it is to tell them they have bad breath. My first impulse is to jump all over it and share with them all this fabulous insight I have gained and all the connections I have made with those that have helped me. However, sharing my keen new skill has been met with denial, rejection or the polite nod with the accompanying non-committal response which in it’s most literal translation is “you may be right but there is no way in hell I will ask for help”. I can only smile with the compassion of knowing I walked in their shoes and I am sure along the way, left a wake of my own rejected wanna-be helpers.
I have a friend who is faced with a very difficult situation, he very recently lost most of his sight. He is the type of guy who is quick to jump to the aid of anyone, but I cannot think of one time he has asked me for help. All of sudden he is faced with a serious situation where he has to ask for help everyday. This has really been very difficult for him. I spoke to him about my experience, he is still struggling, but I have hope that he will come to see the blessing it is to not only ask for help but to realize how many want to help.
I know of other beautiful friends that have convinced themselves they have little or no resources to ask for help, I am not sure if they actually believe it or are telling themselves that so they can avoid asking, I only say this because it was a strategy I employed myself. I hope that one day everyone recognizes the enormous gift you can give your circle of support by asking for help. There are so many out there that want to help, but if we have sent the message out that we can do it ourselves, others are hesitant to offer help, especially if those offers have been politely declined in the past. Hope is not lost though, it just means we have to find our voice and use it.
Over the last year I received so much help it has been overwhelming. Now it is my turn to return the gift. I have been seeking opportunities to help others and it feels great. So please the next time someone offers help and that little voice of pride that speaks to you and tries to convince you to reject it, ignore that voice and take it, accept the help that is offered. You are not only doing yourself a favor, you are giving the person offering the help a gift. And ask for help from your whole circle, not just one person, expand your horizons you will be amazed at the results. I believe we would live in a more peaceful and loving world if we would return to our tribal roots. Where helping each other was not only a way of life it was a means to survive. In the tribe everyone helped each other it just had to be that way for the tribe to thrive.
There is a wonderful quote by the poet Kahlil Gibran, “generosity is giving more than you can and pride is taking less than you need.” Please be strong and generous but also ask for that which you need.