Recently, I was recovering from a surgery. All is well (fortunately) and I am grateful that I had time off of work to focus on healing (not like there was much else I could do!).

Throughout the course of my recovery, I was a bit resistant to getting help. After all, I’m a capable, independent person and I usually cringe at the idea of depending on someone else. But when you are healing, I’ve learned, there’s not much else you can do. You sort of have to give in and depend on other people to get what you need.

Unrealistic Expectations

This goes counter to the “do it yourself” mindset in the US and the expectation that we are all always superheroes who can (and do) do everything. Our cultural conditioning drives us to show strength, to be independent, to achieve, and to dominate, which is why it is so difficult and humbling to admit we need help. Our culture teaches us not to show weakness or to be needy.  Our culture expects us to be self-sufficient and not to rely on others. And our culture is often unkind to those who are in situations where they need help.

Which is why we should celebrate when someone asks for help. Because in this culture, if someone is asking for help, it is probably because they really really need it. There are so many barriers to asking for help – guilt, shame, fear of judgment, conflicts with self-identity – that the vast majority of people are probably asking for help only when they truly need it. And we should acknowledge that willingness to be vulnerable and be humbled that they are willing to show their whole, round self to the world instead of just their strong, independent side. We should recognize it as a gift when someone trusts us enough to ask for help.

Asking For Help

Here are some of the ways I have asked for help over the last month or so:

  • Asking someone to bringing food and groceries and hot chocolate to my home;
  • Asking someone to o go on walks in the park with to get me moving around and help me feel normal;
  • Asking several people to spend the night at my home so I wouldn’t be alone if anything happened;
  • Asking someone to coach me on not pushing myself too hard (which is the opposite of my nature); and
  • Asking someone to drive me around to doctor’s appointments and other appointments.

It wasn’t fun to ask for help. But it wasn’t as bad as I thought either. And I realized that when others are helping you with your needs, you have bandwidth to help others with their needs – sometimes just by listening to someone and offering them solicited advice.

 

And as a result, I have started rethinking strength. I am realizing that strength is not just about being strong enough to help others, but it’s also about being strong enough to ask others to help you.

So take off your superhero cape, recognize where you need help, and find a way to get it.  And then with your extra bandwidth, figure out how to help someone else, too.