All my life, I’ve had to ask for help. Why? No special reason. I’m just a human being and the design of life is that we’re in this together. As a kid, I asked for help with a stuck zipper, or borrowing class notes if I stayed home sick from school. As an adult, I’ve asked to borrow a truck to transport large items, or I’ve asked a tall person to reach something on a high shelf in a store.
Now, I do have “special reasons” to ask for help. With my chronic conditions, my body is increasingly limited, and often small tasks I used to do with no difficulty are painful or impossible.
At the same time, I have seemed to become more resistant to asking for help. Now, “help” can be reduced to a despised four-letter word.
First Things First
Let’s understand why this resistance is even a thing, after a lifetime of asking for help. OK, so some of us can just be more stubborn or more adamant in our prioritizing of flying through life independently, so that is to be noted. But what needs to be examined is the increase of that stubbornness, now.
I’m certain it’s a denial of the disability itself. If I ask for help with something because of my fibromyalgia or arthritis, that means I need to acknowledge the reality of these crappy circumstances, to mindfully admit in that moment that yes, I’m disabled, and no, it’s not going away.
There’s also the fresh fear of dependency, that swarm of “what-ifs” in a future of needing increasingly more help and care.
And there’s the “no fair.” Other people can do this; no fair that I can’t. I used to be able to do this; no fair that I can’t anymore.
Plenty of other ugly emotions lurk under the surface, I’m sure, but I’ll stop there because I don’t care to summon them all to the surface right now.
But anyway, does any of this sound … or feel … familiar?
Now the goal is to actually ask for help, so with all that (somewhat) unpacked, I shall offer …
My 6 Favorite Tips
- Skip the feelings. What? Yes, we need to stop getting so caught up in how we feel about a situation and just handle the situation. Shift to problem-solving mode and in-the-moment mode. This moment has this problem and this is the solution. Everything’s easier when we stop obsessing over the whole big overwhelming picture and zero in on one task at a time, then do it. Then go ahead and feel feelings … of gratitude and achievement!
- Flip the script from failure to success. Asking for help takes courage! And so many people just won’t! Now’s your chance to be one of the brave ones. Instead of seeing what you’re not capable of, celebrate what you are capable of: that brave act of asking … and giving zero boinks about what anyone thinks about it.
- Remember people love to help. Reflect on how good it feels when you get to do something for somebody, and understand that you can gift that good feeling to someone else. Why deny someone the chance to feel valuable? Yeah, don’t. Oh also, it might literally be their job to help, so let them do their job.
- Be a helpful asker. It’s easier for everyone (yes, that includes you) when you’re easy to help. So…
- Be specific/give clear directions.
- Be nonchalant or downright positive.
- Don’t procrastinate or wait for it to become an emergency!
- Don’t make it transactional. As I said, we’re all in this together. Some people are “score keepers,” but I’ve found that they end up being pretty toxic. So when you accept help, don’t feel like you owe someone anything more than a “thank you” and genuine appreciation. That gets exhausting and may draw you into one of those toxic relationships. Just as when you give help, you don’t do it so the person is on deck to owe you something. You’re not Don Corleone.
- Pay attention to your own helpfulness. We all have our own skills, talent, and value. We’re all helpful to others in big and little ways. Sometimes, like when we pay a stranger a compliment (who could have desperately needed it in that moment), we don’t even know how helpful we might be! Just notice when you’re helpful, that you’re helpful, too, so that when the times come that you ask for help, you remember that you’re part of this big community that is the world, where we all help each other, because it’s just what we do. No big deal.