Maybe this is one of those things that only some people struggle with. Like complaining about bad service or sending food back in a restaurant or wearing flowery patterns. But here’s the thing. I need help…to learn to ask for help! I recently embarked on the most terrifying, anwer-to-prayer passion project of my life, a project that I hope to be the first of many. And in the last 2 months as I have struggled to fit the rest of my overfull life around accomodating this big dream I realised, sadly, terrifyingly, that I needed help. I wish I needed to have a root canal. I wish I needed to have ducks tunnel into my scull with their beaks. I wish I needed to look after a spoilt 2 year old on a sugar high. I would rather have to do any of those things instead of having to ask for help. Is it just me?
So I’ve analysed it and here is what I have so far:
Normally when we don’t want to do something or struggle to bring ourselves to do something it’s because we think it’s going to be bad for us. Here is why we don’t want to ask for help:
Our story: We all have one. Maybe in yours, like in mine, you where praised for being independent and strong as child, or maybe in yours, like in mine, there where seasons where you realised that you needed to be responsible beyond your years because there was no one else to do what needed to be done. Family of origin can influence whether we see letting people in and asking for help as a part of normal life or as a sign of weakness, whether we view not needing anything from anyone as a definition of our value or whether we view needing help from others as being not at all connected to our sense of self. Or we may have been brought up to believe that asking for help is a weakness.
Being told you don’t actually need help: Sometimes when we try to ask for help, the response we get is one of a reframed perspective. Sometimes what we really need is a reframed perspective so yay! But sometimes what we need is help. Like, actual help. Sometimes the person we ask just ends up telling us why we shouldn’t see this as an actual problem, or telling us to just get over it. Sure, we all need a “put your big girl panties on” kinda talk from time to time, but if you’re anything like me, those panties are kinda the only ones you got and so when you do ask for help it’s usually not because you need to “woman up” to something, or because you need a pep talk, it’s because you do actually need help. But these ironically unhelpful responses to us reaching out for assistance can be the thing that keeps us from doing it again in the future.
Fear of being judged: We want to appear to be self reliant and independent. That is the be all and end all and shame on us if we appear to be dropping some balls am I right?
Fear of rejection: I don’t want to ask because what if they say no.
Pride: Pride is insidious and tricky to spot. My husband likes to call pride the “sin behind the sin”. It hides in all kinds of respectable and justifyable places. So let me save you some time and tell you what I figured out:
- am covering up my shortcomings = pride
- feel an offer of help is an insult to my capabilities and it makes me prickly and hard to serve = pride
- am embarrassed and ashamed at being an inconvenience to someone when they offer to help me = pride
Needing helpforces us to admit to our shortcomings and vulnerability and exposes the lie that we have it all together – one we thought all the while everyone believed. Sure, I can call out to the Lord, He already knows I am weak and wobly. But other people don’t. I would like God on my side as my superpower behind the scenes, all the while hoping everyone thinks I am a super mom. You know like when you take all your Le Creuset dishes over to Olivia’s and they put the ready-made food right in there and you present it as your own to your dinner guests! I secretly love it when people say, I don’t know how she does it, voices tinged with awe, but mostly with envy. I know. I’m bad. But I don’t think I’m the only one!
Fear of reciprocity: I have a sibling who literally has a mortal fear of reciprocity. He can think of nothing worse than “ someone doing him a favour” and so he never asks for any. Isn’t it funny how we often measure our relationship interactions almost in an economic way. I think it’s called transactional interdependence. Also, IF we generally say yes too easily and regret it afterwards (in other words do not guard our words and motives) we are hyper aware that someone else might be similarly motivated and don’t want them to be put in that position where they can’t say no. Twisted right? And I think it’s kinda sad for us, as a human race.
Because it’s just hard ok: like I said, maybe not for everyone, but certainly for introverts. It just takes so much energy, all that explaining and answering questions, all that interacting. It seems so overwhelmingly exhausting that I’d just as soon avoid it all together.
We are all adults here, I am not trying to convince you of the benefits of kale or colonoscopies or anything, so let’s just keep this in perspective. What if I told you (and myself) that asking for help is a good thing? What if I told you what you’d be missing out on by refusing to ask for help if you need it?
Here is why it’s good to (learn to/ force yourself to) ask for help:
Because we develop courage: Vulnerability is truly brave and thanks to Brene Brown it’s also the new black. It takes allot of self-awareness and understanding to ask for help. That is not weakness ya’ll. That is courageous. It means we are aware of our strengths and our abilities and where their limits lie. That is why God said to Paul to write this down:
“My grace is always more than enough for you, and my power finds its full expression through your weakness.”
“So I will celebrate my weaknesses, for when I am weak I sense more deeply the might power of Christ living in me.” (2 Cor 12 v 9 TPT)
Because we develop community: Our recognition of the boundary of our strength in asking for help also means our recognition of the skills and strengths of others. When we ask for help we give someone an opportunity to use their strengths, to collaborate and pool resources with us, resulting in a stronger whole. How often do we say we value authenticity but we are not authentic. Because are we not most authentic when we admit to areas where we need help? Could our strong sense of independence and our preference for pretence be the reason why we struggle to develop significant
community? God wired us to need connection, to need each other. Actually refusing to ask for help stifles community. If we are not good at asking for help, we are likely not great at giving it. This is because we see other people not as they really are, but as we really are, and that drives how we relate to them. If we find our own need for help as unacceptable, we will project that same orientation onto someone else, hardening ourselves against their need the way we’ve hardened ourselves against our own.
Because we all need feedback: Feedback is good. We have to let people in. In his book PEAK, K Anders Ericsson explores the process whereby people gain expertise and become excellent. He proposes that the process of deliberate practice is the key to superior performance and one of the building blocks of deliberate practice is feedback.
Because rejection won’t kill you:I’m serious. When we ask for help and the answer is no, we need to remember that the answer is a no to our question, not a no over us as people. We tend to over personalise rejection way too much, making very”no” a definition of us instead of a response to our request or the outcome of a situation. What if the person we asked didn’t have the resources, whether mental or emotional to assist us? NO is a full sentence and just as much as we need to learn to say it we need to learn to hear it and be ok with it.
Because, reality: I know you are amazing at lots of stuff, in reality you are not amazing at everything IN. THE. WORLD. None of us know everything about everything. You are not Google. And none of us possess every skill in the world. We don’t expect that from other people, why do we expect it from ourselves.
Because, progress: Progress is good. Needing help and being unable to ask for it leaves us stuck – trapped in our own heads. Sometimes that is the one thing that is the blockage to the flow towards resolution or completion, whether the help you need is with a project or a problem. The relief of realising there is help available frees you up towards progress.
I know how hard this is Momma, for me it’s almost paralyzing. But we can’t fully realise our potential in any given calling or area if we refuse to draw on the help God offers us through others, just like limbs in the body need each other. He kinda planned it that way I heard! We not only deprive ourselves, but also others of the blessing and the redemptive work that being in service to each other brings about in us.
God is always working. If God is moving you into accepting a new challenge or opportunity and preparing something in you, could He not also be preparing someone else to assist you? Don’t miss God’s goodness and help because you are relying too much on your own!