On failing to ask for help

“I don’t want to bother her.” “I’ll just drag him down.” “It’s my job to be strong.” “I don’t want to be a burden.” “I can do it myself.” Excuses abound for why we fail to ask for help–whether practical pitching in on chores or emotional support that could ease us through a tough spot in our lives. The cultural press, in this nation that so prizes independence, is to do it ourselves in order to not irk or stress others.

What about the flip side? Think about when you are able to support someone who is dear to you. How do you feel when you can listen, give a hug, or lend a hand? There’s lots of research expounding upon the psychological and health benefits of giving to others–in many forms. I’m sure that you are aware of the bonus for you when you help a friend or loved one. You get a little glow, a boost to your own day, from feeling valuable to another.

So next time you find you are shutting down, failing to ask for help or confide to a loved one because you don’t want to “bother” or “stress” them, ask “who says?” Who are you to deprive another of a chance to feel good by helping you? Put yourself in her shoes. For example, I often hear women say “I can’t ask my mother for help–she has so much on her plate.” Then reverse the scenario. If you had a daughter, wouldn’t you want her to ask you for assistance if she needed it? You’d want to be helpful if you could be–every chance!

Of course, when we are asked for help, it’s healthiest to give freely if we’re able–and to speak up honestly if we really can’t step in with an open heart at the moment. No room here for passive-aggressive giving shrouded with anger or resentment. It’s each person’s job to police her own resources, and say “no” if a request is not possible. That’s the job of the person being asked. It’s not for the person in need to ‘prescreen’ and second guess.

Give your loved ones a chance to show love and support–ask for it! Benefits all around will abound.

4 thoughts on “On failing to ask for help

  1. Jane says:

    I definitely agree. Being “strong” is a burden we tire of carrying. Being “in community” is a practice we need to try on for size. Why can’t we pay it forward and accept help when we need it, knowing we will surely return the favor later.

    I’d hazard a guess that it’s been such a long time since many of us “tried on” asking for help we’re not sure it still fits…

    But it will. Like shoe size, needing others very rarely changes.

  2. Lauren says:

    Last time I spoke with Ann we talked a lot about me learning to ask for help (I was 8 months pregnant). The very next day I broke my leg. Then came surgery, 2 months of being “non-weight bearing” and then having a newborn… needless to say, I’ve done my fair share of asking for help in the last 3 months. It has been an amazing learning experience. Whenever I asked for help- which was most of the time- all of my friends and family stepped in to help.

    The whole situation was difficult, but also such a blessing! Now I’m hyper-aware of opportunities to help other people and excited to pay it forward.

  3. Ann Dunnewold says:

    Oh my, oh my, Lauren–you poor dear. I am SO glad you have come through this challenging experience! Congrats on the new baby and being so open to this lesson! Good for you!

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