Asking for help is an act of bravery. Of this I am convinced. Asking for help makes me exposed. Vulnerable. At the mercy of another. Its uncomfortable. An unwelcome feeling that I shy away from. I just don’t like the way it feels, so wherever possible I’ll avoid doing it. Avoid opening myself up to the potential hurt or disappointment if the help that you hope for doesn’t materialise. This has caused me to hang on to a flawed notion that self sufficiency is a virtue of sorts, something to be applauded. Which it isn’t.
I’d never given a great deal of thought to be honest, which is a little short sighted given that I’ve worked in a ‘helping’ profession for over a decade. But there it is. Maybe that’s a sign of how much I don’t like doing it.
This TED talk, however, made me think about it. And think about it differently.
As something brave, daring, positive with the potential for amazing results. Another moment (and there’s been a lot of those lately!) when my world view has been a bit more turned on its head. Because up until now, in my mind, I have only got as far as thinking what a difficult process asking for help can be.
I will never forget myself as a new mother, feeling exhausted, wretched and desperate, and being visited by the Health Visitor (back in the days when that used to happen). And she asked me how I was. And I nearly told her. I nearly spewed out how shocked, frightened and utterly overwhelmed I was by this little person I had created. But I didn’t do that.
I still remember the moment. The gross understatement that came out of my mouth, in spite of my inner turmoil. How I squeaked that motherhood was a “little harder” than I had expected, was “quite tiring” (ha ha) but that I was basically “ok”. Which was BS on a huge scale. But I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t let myself “be seen”, couldn’t reach out, because in my fragile state, the odds felt too high. The messages around me were about how happy I should be, how, despite the fact that I was traumatised by my baby’s difficult birth, I should be grateful (which I was) that he was strong, huge and healthy, when there had been a real possibility that it could all have gone horribly wrong.
The risks felt too great in that moment. What if the help I needed wasn’t forthcoming? What if it made me feel worse? What if I was seen for the person soup that I was? And so I didn’t. I said I was fine. And in time, I was fine. But I imagine at some cost to myself – to my experience of new motherhood.
And then I get to thinking about the times I have asked for help since becoming a parent. When I’ve been brave enough to say I need help, that I haven’t got all the answers and can’t do this by myself or be self sufficient any more. And I see my husband’s flexible work-life that makes it possible for him to be much more present in our family life, the pleasure my dad took in having a regular role in the lives of his grandkids during my commuting days, the wonderful “mother’s help” who made family life possible when baby number 3 officially “outnumbered” us.
And then I get it. I get why its good, not weak, to ask for the help you need, to take the risk, to put yourself out there. Because, hard as it can be, the results can be special, powerful, affirming.
I’d love to hear your experiences with asking for help. What does it feel like? What makes you hold back from doing it?