“Could I have some help, please?”
For many, this is one of the most difficult questions in the world. It’s not as hard to ask when we’re doing it on behalf of someone else. But when it’s for ourselves, often it is a whole other ball of wax.
For some of us, it is an issue of vulnerability. “I am showing weakness if I cannot do everything for myself or if I need anyone for anything. If I show weakness, my enemies can hurt me.”
For others, it is an issue of deserving. “I do not matter, I don’t deserve to have other people go out of their way for something I need.”
Still others fear rejection. “If I ask and they say no, I’ll feel like they don’t care and don’t like me.”
There are lots of reasons why people don’t ask for help. Yet many of them don’t mind being asked by others. In fact, some people thrive on it.
One of the hardest lessons I’ve had is the one about asking for help. I grew up in an environment where my needs didn’t matter, my feelings were inconsequential, and I was ridiculed or criticised for having “bothered” anyone with them. I was pretty much left to fend for myself in many ways.
This was especially true when I was asking — and in fact, begging — to be protected from regular violations as well as physical attacks by one particular family member. But my requests were ignored and the violence continued. So I stopped asking.
I felt as though I was very much alone in the world. I believed I wasn’t worthy of receiving help. I believed I was just a bother and had no right to ask anyone to go to any trouble to assist me.
And even if someone offered help, I couldn’t accept it.
I grew up and became someone who was always available to others in need. “No matter what, day or night, just ask and I’ll do it” — that was how I lived. Like a big ol’ beacon to a million moths, I attracted all kinds of people who took advantage of my willingness to help others. My phone rang in the middle of the night and I’d get up and spend a few hours supporting. People dropped by at all hours, and as much as I was able, I gave and did and listened and helped and gave some more.
It took a lot of years before I learned some valuable lessons about that. One of the most important was the difference between people who genuinely need help — i.e. the ones who are unable to help themselves, or the ones who can do it but need a bit of assistance along the way — and those who won’t help themselves and only want to take whatever they can get.
But that’s another topic for another day…
What I want to address here today are the issues that prevent people from asking for help, and if you are one of those people, ask yourself why. Chances are, your answer will be related to some longstanding emotional wound, although you might not identify it as such.
But take a closer look. What do you believe about asking for help or accepting it when it’s offered? Where did those beliefs come from? Do you hold the same beliefs for others? Or do you have one set of “rules” for yourself and a different set of “rules” for others who need help?
We are all in the same boat. We’re not really so different from one another; all of us hurt, all of us grieve, all of us want to be loved and accepted. All of us experience pain and loss, frustration and fear, anger and anguish. All of us need help at some points along the way, even those of us who act like we’re tough as nails, or who seem to be as independent as anyone can be.
It may be quite possible to get through life without asking for help — or accepting it when it’s offered, but I should imagine it’s a lot more difficult that way. And a lot lonelier than it needs to be. We are social creatures; that’s how we were built. When we help each other, we create and strengthen emotional bonds. We feel like we have support systems that will help us weather the many storms of life.
I thought I would need great healing before I would be able to ask for help. But I realised that it was in asking for help that I would be healed. I had to do the thing I feared in order to prove to myself that I was worthy of receiving help, that people saw me as valuable, that I would not be personally rejected because I needed something. I had to risk hearing “no” to discover that usually I would be given a resounding “yes.”
I started with the “safest” people, the ones closest to me, the ones I trusted and whom I knew genuinely loved and cared about me. The more I asked, the more I saw that there had been nothing to fear in the first place. People were quite happy to assist me. And when there was the occasional “no” in response to my request for help, I didn’t take it personally anymore.
And here’s the kicker: I realised that there were other issues in not asking for help. First, I was telling the Universe that I didn’t deserve to receive anything so how could I ever expect to manifest anything I’d been saying I wanted?
Secondly, I was depriving others of the joy of giving and being of service, something I loved to do.
And stemming from that, I made a deal with myself: If I ever wanted to ask someone for help (even if it was for something like being a listening ear), I had to ask myself a question. “If that person happened to be in my shoes and was wondering if he/she should ask me, would I want him/her to do it?”
If the answer was “Yes,” I had to treat myself the same way and make my request.
This has proven to be one of the quickest ways to heal that decades-long issue and the self-worth issues that went along with it. By treating myself with the same care and compassion I treat others, I began to believe I was worthy of it.
Next time you find yourself needing help but choking on the request, ask yourself why it is so difficult. See if you can identify what gets in your way. Then challenge yourself to push past that obstacle, go to someone you trust, and make the request come out of your mouth.
If it helps, make the same deal with yourself that I made: If the other person were in your shoes, would you want to be asked for your help? If you answer “Yes,” you have to speak up and ask for help.
I promise, it does get easier with practice. After all, we need each other. If you’re always there for others, isn’t it time you allowed them to be there for you, too?
This post was previously published on Liberty Forrest.
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