I’m not the type of person who likes to ask for help. In my forty-plus years, I’ve never asked my parents for help financially, even when they helped my brothers with a down payment on their houses, or helped them buy cars. I have asked them, on occasion, to babysit my children, but that’s pretty much the extent of me asking for help.
Aside from asking for advice on some small issue I’m going through or restaurant recommendations, I’ve never really asked my friends to do anything for me either. I always felt that I couldn’t bring myself to ask for help because I’m a super-independent person, and I don’t want to be pitied, nor do I want to feel like a burden. Admittedly, I also didn’t want to be thought of as weak.
Right now, I’m going through a stressful time. Let me be clear; it’s a stressful time, not this-is-the-end-of-the-world type time. I’m not going to share the reason why I’m completely stressed out and overwhelmed, because the reason doesn’t matter. What matters is that, for the first time in my life, I actually asked both friends and family members for help. And it was a life changer.
Many women are like me, refusing, or are too embarrassed to ask for help. (What is wrong with us?) But an amazing thing happened when I finally let down my guard and asked for help. I loved this piece, written by Emma Johnston a couple of years ago, who runs this website. It really hit home. She, too, was once wary of asking for help, even though she was going through an extremely difficult time in her life, way more difficult than what I’m going through. She writes, “My fear of appearing uncertain – and therefore weak and incompetent – forced me to be extra resourceful in order to figure things out without having to ask a human being for help… But my refusal to ask for help was also a refusal to be humble and to connect with other people. I fear, if someone did help me, I would then be indebted to them. Or, worse, I would ask for help and they would disappoint me.”
I know I am blessed with the best of friends. But when I told them what was going on in my life, I couldn’t believe just how blessed I really was. Every single one of my group of girlfriends not only called me every single day, the visited, they helped me with things I had no idea how to handle, and helped out with things I just couldn’t do. I would find out later that they had a group chat over text about me that said something like, “Okay, guys, our friend is going through a difficult time. Let’s buy a bottle of wine and go be with her.”
I knew I had amazing friends, but the fact they took the time away from their busy lives to go out of their way to help me really made me see just how lucky I am to have them. This is one thing I learned when I asked for help—just how amazing my friends are.
I learned to get over my ego and ask for help and a magical thing happened…
I also learned that I wasn’t a burden to them, by asking for help. The old me, who didn’t want to burden them with my problems and instead would shell out money for a shrink, learned that my friends have endless patience to listen when I was or am in a time of need.
As Johnston also says in her heartwarming piece, “Like many women I know, I felt immense pressure to be independent and to take care of everything myself—lest I appear unqualified (God forbid) or risk burdening somebody with a request for help.” She goes on to write, “What I’ve learned is that when you ask for help, magical things happen. One, people help you. People like to help…”
I couldn’t believe it, especially at my age, when my parents offered me a sum of money, which I didn’t really need, to be honest. But when I asked them why they answered, “Because you’re going through a tough time and we want to support you.” I accepted their offer, because it was their way of supporting me, and, honestly, I knew this was the one way they could offer their support. Plus, they wanted to help me and it was easier to accept their help than to argue that I didn’t need their help.
Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve teared up a number of times. Not because of what I’m going through, but because I really realized how lucky, blessed and grateful I am to have such a great network of support. But it was only after I asked for helped that this really was an eye-opener to me.
Once I realized that I had all these people in my life who were only too happy to help me and actually wanted to help in many different ways, I felt more and more comfortable, and I let myself ask others for help. I asked one of my girlfriends who loves to organize to help me organize my life. Another girlfriend spent an entire day with me, even though she has four children of her own, and leads such a busy life.
Other girlfriends called me, and still do, every single day to just check in on me. Another girlfriend forced me to out for drinks, which I needed, and after I accepted her offer, instead of wallowing in self-pity, we ended up laughing all night long. It was her way to help me.
My siblings rallied around me, telling me to call whenever I wanted to and offered their help as well, telling me to drop off my children if I need a break. I shouldn’t have been surprised that my friends and family helped me, but I was surprised that I let myself admit to them that I really did need help.
Johnston is right: when you ask for help, magical things do happen. I learned that, yes, I could still be an independent person, and sometimes even the most independent people still need help. I learned to get over myself and my ego, enough to realize that people aren’t pitying me, they are helping me. I realized that people aren’t looking at me like a charity case, and that they simply want to help. I now understand why. It’s the same as when I took a girlfriend for a mammogram because she was scared, or when I take another friend grocery shopping because she doesn’t have a car. I like to help my friends. So it was silly of me to feel that they would feel anything but good about helping me.
Women are taught to be independent, but that doesn’t mean that we all don’t need help once in a while, whether it’s asking a family member or friend to babysit our children for an afternoon, or whether it’s to help hang paintings in your home. As the saying goes, “If you don’t ask, you don’t get.”
Most of all, when you see how your family and friends are so willing to help, you can’t help but smile. Now, thanks to learning and letting myself ask for help, it feels like the world is smiling with me.
How do you feel about asking for help? Do you find it as difficult as I used to?
Tagged under: helping hand,Friends,help others,mom friends,why am i grateful,family relationships,Moms and Family,best friends,friendships,what i'm grateful for,girlfriends,making time for family,bonding with family,supporting mothers,Gratefulness,friendships that last through thick and thin,grateful and depression,How to Help a Fellow Mom,choosing friends