Updated: Sep 2
Are you good at asking for help? I suppose, like most things, it depends on the situation. When I was younger, I would rarely ask for help and there were two reasons for this. I was fiercely independent, and I grew up with a mother who also didn't ask for help when she needed it most. Both nature and nurture played a role and I learned over time that I would work it out and get by just fine on my own. Now, whilst this served me well in some ways - I travelled abroad, lived on my own, built a career etc - it set me up for a difficult time when I became a wife and a mother myself.
Over the past few years, I have looked at my behaviour, done a lot of work on myself and now recognise what has stopped me from asking for help. And the answer surprised me. It was fear. Fear is what kept me holding on tight, unwilling to let go and reach out, as I was afraid I would be let down if I relied on someone else. I saw asking for help as a weakness, I was proud to struggle on and do it myself. That way I could never be disappointed. This potent mix of fear and ego kept me in a cycle of exhaustion, mistrust and resentment. It went something like this - I needed help, say with childcare, I wouldn't ask for help because I 'could do it all' and then, when I was too tired, frazzled and fed up I would berate myself for not being able to 'do it all'. And so, instead of reaching out to my husband, family and friends, I would strive even harder to prove I 'could do it all'! Madness, I know! I had become my own task master and it was relentless.
So, how has this changed? What do I do differently now? Well, please be under no illusion - I am a work in progress. I still fall into the fear trap. And added to the fear is the well meaning thought of whether I am burdening someone else. 'But what if they're busy?' I ask, 'they have a lot going on in their lives already.' Or the fear may mingle with guilt, 'But it is my home/child/responsibility, I need to take care of this.' and the classic 'I'm sure I can fit it in' - whilst moving heaven and earth to actually fit it in! The final thought is the one that seals the deal - 'Other people manage, so why shouldn't I?'
But now, before I fall prey to this spiral of thoughts, I try to replace negative thinking with truth., this is slowly changing my perspective on asking for help. If I can remind myself of these truths, before my old default setting takes over, I will reach out, share the load and not feel guilty or afraid. Here are some of the truths I remind myself of when reaching out:
Truth #1 - I am not a one man-band!
One person trying to play every instrument never sounds good! So, put down the cymbals and drum and just focus on one thing at a time and allow others to play their part in your life.
Truth #2 - People need people
The phrase 'it takes a village to raise a child' is true - and we all need each other. I am someone's child, sister, wife, mother, aunty, friend etc. We were intended to look to each other for support and help. If I believe in the power of community, then I need to embrace the help others can provide.
Truth #3 - There is joy in helping
I get a lot of pleasure from helping others, and so, by asking for help, I am allowing others to feel that joy too.
Truth #4 - Others don't do it all
Despite what you may see or assume - other people do ask for help. And they have different situations, lifestyles and relationships to me. All of these factor into how we live our lives and the support we experience.
Truth #5 - Struggling is not a strength
It may feel uncomfortable, but each time I reach out, I know it is a far better option than struggling alone.
Truth #6 - I would want to be asked
If I knew someone was finding things tough or had a lot on their plate - I would want to be there for them and be someone they could lean on.
Truth #7 - My worth is not in doing
I am valuable because of who I am, not what I do. And so running myself ragged and spinning all of the plates all of the time doesn't make me a better person - it makes me an exhausted person!
Truth #8 - Be the example
I want my family and friends to ask for help - whether from myself or others, and so I can model this behaviour and set a good example. I want my children to see that it is right and healthy to share responsibilities, to work as a team and know that their worth is not in doing it all.
So, whilst leaning on others is not my strong suit, it is something I am working on. Consider for yourself why you may find it difficult to get the support you need. Do you need to write your own set of truths that you can turn to and use to replace learned or negative thoughts. I'd love to know, I mean, that's what I'm here for - to support you in your journey and keep the conversation going.
Please feel free to share this with people who may need to be encouraged to reach out. You can join my mailing list by subscribing to this blog, follow me on socials and get in touch via my email. I'd love to cheer you on!
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