Q: Is there a way to ask for help without sounding pitiful or needy? Things have been tough lately and someone close to me is in a pretty good position to help out, but I’m afraid of looking bad in this person’s eyes (or anybody’s really).
A: Sweet soul, I know how difficult it can be to ask for help. Deep down, we want to prove ourselves capable of doing things on our own. Something that starts when we’re toddlers. That wonderful feeling of pride at our accomplishments, knowing we were responsible for a job well done. Honestly, one of my favorite phrases out of my children’s mouths, when they were barely capable of stringing monosyllables together, was the defiant “Me… do!” Whatever it was they were attempting, that triumphant phrase meant they were ready to tackle the task at hand before it was done by others. That sensation stays with you all the days of your life, likely growing after you’ve spent a couple decades test driving the waters of employment, relationships, finances and the rest. It hurts when one of the critical components of being an adult goes awry (job loss, breakup/divorce, crushing debt, etc.) and you have to approach another of your tribe to say, “Help me, please?” The idea you’ll be perceived as weak, uncertain, not smart/good/worthy enough (fill in the blank) and in need is frightening. I know. No, really. I know.
You should know, there’s an emotional see-saw effect when you reach out for help. While so many of us are wired with the “Me do!” recording, we’re also typically wired for the response of “Let me help.” It’s one reason caregivers often take ill when looking after a loved one, as they give and give until they give out, rarely accepting respite for themselves (the statistics are sobering). Therefore, asking for support is healthy for all involved. It provides a chance for others to give the gift of being of service. In fact, doctors say that volunteering wards off depression so, you’ll be doing a good deed by letting someone help you!
In her book, The Art of Asking (or How I learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help), Amanda Palmer devotes over 300 pages that help you help yourself when it comes to help. Talk about a self-help book! (I also recommend seeking out her 13 minute and 47 seconds TED talk on the subject, too.) In it, she states:
Asking for help with shame says:
You have the power over me.
Asking with condescension says:
I have the power over you.
But asking for help with gratitude says:
We have the power to help each other.
You say you have someone you can turn to? If it’s a person you trust and feel they can lend a hand – and you would do the same in return – let them. Even Charlie Brown said, “Asking for help isn’t weak. It’s a great example of how to take care of yourself.”
xo – t.