Asking for help is a sign of strength and confidence
When we were kids, we had no problem asking for help when we needed it. If we couldn’t reach a cup of juice, were having trouble with a homework assignment, or skinned our knee, we’d ask for help . . . usually from Mom. We had no expectations we had to manage, and we didn’t have to accomplish all things on our own. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: we can learn from children. There is wisdom in their innocent approach. They’re not yet brainwashed or self-judgmental.
So we outgrow our Keds, lose interest in cartoons, stop eating Trix, and become pros at adulting. We become responsible, take our obligations seriously, and grow into strong, independent women. We become moms ourselves and add another notch to our responsibility belt. Then some women, such as you, become Solo Moms with seemingly no more room to punch another notch on that belt as it squeezes ever more tightly.
You don’t have a choice whether or not to take care of your children. It’s all on you. Well, it may be all on you as a parent, but who else in your life could lend you a supportive hand or ear? Why are we so hesitant to ask for help? Look, I get it. I am a recovering “independaholic.” There was a time when I’d break open a pickle jar before I’d ask for help untwisting the lid. But whoever said that needing help and support was an indication of weakness?
Turns out the opposite is true. Asking for help is a sign of strength and confidence. “There is no shame in asking for help,” says psychotherapist Karen Kleiman in Psychology Today. “It is what strong women do to engage the support of others in order to maximize their own resources.”
Our hesitation, and perhaps even embarrassment, in asking for help is based on a misguided belief that we are supposed to do this alone and that if we can’t handle it, there must be something wrong with us.
There’s something I want you to know: There is nothing wrong with you if you need help.
Something we can always do when we want to get to the truth of the matter is to look at the laws and designs of nature and see how they correlate with how we could live our lives. There was a time in human history when our species would perish if we didn’t look out for one another. That is by design. We are supposed to help one another, and it’s not a one-way street.
As women, we are so quick to help others but so hesitant to receive help. We don’t want to impose on others, so we don’t ask. Are we not defying the laws of nature when we do that? Does that not interrupt the natural flow if we only give but don’t allow ourselves to receive?
Think of it another way. How does it feel when you help another person? It feels good, right? In another article for ESME, I discussed how our brains release serotonin (a natural antidepressant) when we are kind. So why do we deny this opportunity to those who would be happy to help us? As Margie Warrell, author of Brave (Wiley, 2015), shares on Forbes.com, “Fear gets the better of us while depriving others of a chance to show they care and share their gifts.”
Have you ever offered something you had to give, whether it be a helping hand, money, or even holding the door for someone, to be met with, “No, thank you. I’ve got it.”? It’s a form of rejection, and it doesn’t feel good. Understand this: it is an act of kindness to receive someone’s generosity.
Here are some ways to help you start asking for and receiving help:
1. Accept offers of help. If someone offers help and you could use it, accept it. Remember, it is not an imposition, especially for those who care about you.
2. List what you need. Make a list of tasks in which you could use some assistance (e.g., doing errands and laundry, picking up the kids from sports practice, or walking the dog). Or maybe you simply need a sympathetic ear.
3. Identify who can help. Ask yourself who might be able to help you do each task, and make a list. Is there a neighborhood teen who would love to earn a few bucks after school dusting, vacuuming, doing dishes, and walking the dog? Or even a friend’s older child who could help with your son’s math homework? While you make this list, pause for a moment and think if there is anyone who has already offered to help you but whose help you previously declined.
4. Reach out. Pick one item from number two, pair it with someone from number three, pick up the phone, and ask for a favor.
Be as quick to accept a helping hand as you are to give one, and you’ll notice a shift in your energy and in your peace of mind and that of those around you. You don’t want your children growing up carrying unnecessary burdens themselves. Show them by example and with pride that it’s OK to lean on others at times, and therein lies one of the hidden gifts, wrapped in the package of a challenging time, that you can give your children.
Keryl Pesce is an author, inspirational speaker, and happiness expert whose brand and advice have been featured in Redbook, the New York Times, and the Huffington Post, and on Glamour.com and Bloomberg.com. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @KerylPesce.
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