As an oldest child/perfectionist/control freak/Taurus, asking for help is one of my least favorite things. Whether I’m doing a crossword puzzle or weathering an emotional storm, I’ll handle it on my own, thankyouverymuch. Over the past year, though, I’ve been dealing with some pretty intense life changes and found myself in the position where I literally couldn’t get through it alone. I was drowning, and I had no choice but to reach out and grab the outstretched hands of my amazing friends, who pulled me to shore and gently guided me toward the office of a therapist, where I swallowed my pride and said, “You know what? I’m not doing so well.” In the process, I learned how important it is to be able to ask for help, especially when you’re feeling lost, overwhelmed, or alone. Here’s why…
1. Because it takes a strong person to admit you need help. A myth that many of us (myself included) operate under is that asking for help is a sign of weakness. We live in an individualistic society; we glorify self-made men, and you never hear about people who asked for assistance pulling up their bootstraps to achieve the American Dream. When I’m stubbornly refusing to ask for help, I tell myself it’s because I’m strong, but that’s not true–it’s because I’m scared. I’m scared to be vulnerable. I’m scared to admit that I can’t do it all on my own. I’m scared the people I ask for help won’t help me. In reality, asking for help is the brave thing to do.
2. Asking for help strengthens your relationships. People who don’t like to ask for help are often skilled listeners and advice-givers, for two reasons: 1) we’re good at it and genuinely enjoy helping our friends out, and 2) listening to other people’s problems and giving them advice lets us avoid talking about our own problems and getting advice. It’s a neat little trick, but it’s not fair to us or to the people we love. In any relationship, the give and take needs to be equal. Asking for help every once in awhile will make your relationships more authentic, balanced, and intimate. It will also help you see who your true friends are: if a friend who vents about their life everyday bails on you when you need to talk, well, that person’s not really a friend.
3. No one can get through life on their own. John Donne knew what was up when he wrote, “No man is an island.” We all have struggles and we’re not able–or meant–to face them alone. You are surrounded by people who would love to lend you an ear, a hug, or a little advice. All you have to do is ask.
4. There might be a simple solution for your complicated problem. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve called my best friend with what I thought was an insurmountably complex problem only to have her offer a super obvious solution I would never have thought of. Every person has a different experience and way of thinking and way of approaching life; don’t discount the power of getting someone else’s perspective on what you’re going through. Plus, sometimes you’ll find you didn’t even need a solution at all, you just needed to talk.
5. If we can all be a little more open and honest, the world will be a better place. The most amazing moments of human connection happen when we take down our walls and let ourselves be vulnerable. Earlier this year, Amelia posted a Facebook link to this lecture from Brené Brown, a professor of social work whose research focuses on vulnerability and shame. In it, she talks about being afraid to ask for help and the shame many of us feel when we realize we need help. “I know that vulnerability is kind of the core of shame and fear and our struggle for worthiness,” she says, “but it appears that it’s also the birthplace of joy, and creativity, of belonging, of love.”
Brown’s words really resonated with me, and cemented the idea that being vulnerable is not only brave, it’s a powerful way to effect change. If I can muster up the courage to be a bit more vulnerable, maybe my actions will help create a more joyful, accepting, loving world. But you know what? I can’t do it on my own. I really need your help.