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Alexis commented, “The most important thing I learned going through my divorce was to ask for help.”

       Frequently, we feel we have to prove we are capable, strong and independent by doing everything ourselves. Some women (and men, too!) are afraid that if they ask for help, they may not get it and they will feel rejected. Others feel that enlisting assistance is giving up control. Still others are afraid they will be perceived as a burden or as weak if they seek out counsel or support.

       The families we grew up in gave us clear messages about “help.” As you look back on your life, what did you learn about asking for help? In your family of origin, did people help each other? Did you receive assistance or support from others, or were you the one who always helped everyone else?  Were your parents reliable and dependable? Or were they busy dealing with problems of their own? Were you the one everyone relied on? If you relate to some of these questions, then some lessons you might have learned growing up may include: “I must do it myself,” “There is no one to rely on,” or “Everyone is too busy.”  Furthermore, you might believe something like this: “If I can’t count on my family, who can I count on?”

    Or perhaps your family made it difficult for you to make your own decisions as everyone had an opinion and tried to press their ideas on you. Then you may be afraid you will lose control if you reach out. Some families, in their zest to help, can become controlling, intrusive and overbearing.

    When we think about asking for help, we must remember that not all people are going to react like members of our family.

       The simple act of sharing a problem with a friend can diminish its strength and power. In connection we reduce our isolation. Sharing a problem can help release us from the never ending struggle with obsessive or racing thoughts or circular reasoning. Just in the process of giving voice to the problem, we may find the illusive answer.

      Furthermore, when we reach out to our friends in our times of need, they are often grateful for the chance to assist us. Sometimes asking someone for help is giving a gift. It is a way to let those we care about know they have value and meaning in our lives.

     Think about messages you received from your family of origin regarding asking for help. Be aware of the tendency to expect others to react in the same way as your family.  Realize and accept there are people you can count on, who will be happy to help. Then allow yourself to fully experience what it feels like to have someone come through for you!

Adapted from From Ex-Wife to Exceptional Life: A Woman’s Journey through Divorce. 2005. 2010

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6 Comments

  1. Annie on the 20. Mar, 2010 remarked #

    Asking for help??? Oh my…that was the hardest thing for me to do. I think the biggest thing we all fear when we ask for help, is people will think we are a failure or we are weak. I was the first to offer help, but would be the last to ask for help. As I have gone through my life journey, I have found asking for help is not such a bad thing. Sharing a problem helps you walk through solutions, gather leads for steps to take, or just sharing can give you relief from all the concern and stress you carry on your shoulders. I have found when I would ask for help, the giver would be so happy to be there for me. They feel needed, valued, and helps make a closer connection to each other. I actually had a postive comment on my annual review at work for reaching out for help. My manager indicated that it takes a person with character, dignity and great concern for an employee to let his manager know I needed help, it showed him that I really cared about myself and the quality of my work. This just proves to me, asking for help means you are strong and that you care about yourself.

  2. CJ Golden on the 21. Mar, 2010 remarked #

    The timing of your blog, Donna, is quite – well – timely for me. Last week I added a new component to my workshops – an exercise meant to highlight the importance of balance in one’s life, but brought out quite another point during the process. As each of the women stepped onto a balance board which I had brought with me, she instinctively reached out for the helping hand of a friend near her. At that point she, and the gal who held out her hand, recognized how much we need to be able to reach other to others in order to find and keep our balance in life. A difficult lesson for us as women to learn – but so very important. However – like Pooh’s friends, Tigger and Eeyore – make sure that friend is upbeat like Tigger and not a downer like Eeyore!

    CJ Golden
    http://www.taogirl.com

  3. Wendy on the 21. Mar, 2010 remarked #

    When I first read your blog I thought to myself, “I have no problem asking for help.” Then I read Annie’s comment and realized that, like Annie, I too connected asking for help in the workplace as a sign of weakness. I thought that if I asked a question or asked for help, people would ‘see through me’. I thought that people would think I was an imposter and that I was incapable. It took me years to realize that I didn’t have to have the answer for everything and that in fact, people respected me more for asking for clarification and/or help. And, like Annie, my boss thanks me for seeking input from the team.

    I’m not sure where I got the message that I had to know the answer for everything. My parents were always willing to lend a helping hand and answer any questions that I had. In retrospect, and I almost hate to say this – being a teacher – I think I got the message, that asking questions was not ok, from school. I think that my schooling from K-12 consisted of sit and get. If I had questions – it was better not to ask out loud, but to go home and ask my parents or do the research myself. Sure, there were a couple of memorable teachers who encouraged questions and dialogue. But unfortunately, the pervasive attitude was ‘Don’t ask, I’ll tell.’

    I can’t believe that I never actually pondered this until now. As always, Donna, great blog. Thanks for making me think. Love the stream of consciousness that I get when I write.

  4. Beth on the 21. Mar, 2010 remarked #

    Donna,

    I learned about asking for help the hard way after going through the worst thing I’d ever had to deal with in my life.

    It was 10x harder than it had to be because I didn’t say anything to anyone, even my family until years later. I think it broke my dad’s heart that I suffered so much and didn’t tell them.

    Lesson #1: Ask for help because your family and friends will be devastated to learn later that you needed help they would have gladly given.

    I’ve had the positive side of that learning curve. I ask for help from volunteers at my workplace all the time. It makes them incredibly happy to help. And, even though they don’t ask for it or expect it, I make sure they get extra benefits and perks. Now they are twice as happy.

    Lesson #2: It makes people feel needed and happy to help you.

    Now, I always ask for help. Sometimes I don’t really need it, but I know it will make someone else feel good!

    Thanks for the post Donna.

  5. Rochelle on the 21. Mar, 2010 remarked #

    Oh, the timing of your “Asking for Help” blog is uncanny! A friend just forwarded your blog to me, and before I read it I reached out to her for help around a health issue. I struggled for two days before asking for the help of my dearest and closest friend. I was so concerned about being a burden, for causing someone else to worry. Wouldn’t that be selfish? This feeling is deep rooted from childhood, growing up with parents who were cold and distant and unsympathetic. And yes, on an intellectual level I recognize the root and know that it is not a healthy way to live my life. But changing patterns that are so deeply ingrained in us is often a lifetime struggle! I may be in for a bit of a rocky road with this new health challenge, and will use it as an opportunity to ask for help. There, I wrote it out in words for all to see. Let it be so!

  6. Rich on the 10. Apr, 2010 remarked #

    Is the fact that your observations have struck so many of my nerves indicative of my need to ask for help?

    Good post!

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