Help (Not) Wanted
There was a time when asking for help was everything. “Mom and dad, could you help me with my homework?”, “Dad, I have no clue how to fix this light on my car. Could you help me”, or even the “So what had happened was I meant to pay this bill, but I actually need help doing it. Would you mind helping me out?”. Asking for help was a breeze, a simple request that seemed inevitable as I journeyed through life. I needed help figuring out what to wear to job interviews, help when my heart was crushed and I was trying to move on to the next chapter in my life, help when I moved into my first apartment, and then my second, and then my third. Asking for help was so deeply rooted into the fabric of my life that it seemed to fit seamlessly with who I was becoming as a person.
However, about two years ago I stopped asking for help. I saw what asking for help did to some of my friendships (“You’re asking for relationship advice and help with this guy again?”), some of my relationships (“Look, I really like you but I can’t help you right now”), and some of my relationships with my colleagues at work (I can’t help you make the right career choice. I’m sorry”). As I got older and allowed small, negative instances of asking for help warp my perspective on community, it left me isolated behind a wall of confusion, inquiry, and pain. Asking for help became a sign of weakness, a way of seeking unwanted attention, of seeming like I didn’t have my life together. How did I end up here?
It’s ironic because as a second-grade teacher, I always tell my students that asking for help is the best thing you can do in school. No question is ever a silly question. In fact, I tell my students that even as eight and nine-year-olds they are in charge of their learning and that means asking for help when they don’t understand a concept in math or when I may have explained something while teaching that didn’t make sense to them. I preach this constantly yet still struggle with it myself. How can I tell my babies to ask for help and not be afraid to do so, when I’m not practicing it myself? Thankfully, I have a wonderful support system around me who have pushed and pushed and pushed for me to open up and ask for help when needed. I (pridefully) didn’t think I needed help when that’s exactly what I needed. I remember speaking to a friend who said “Help is like a life cycle. It’s a continuous motion of giving help to others and receiving help from others. Sometimes you’re the one who’s helping others and then other times in your life you’ll be the one who’s needing help from them and that’s okay. It’s a life cycle. It’s supposed to work that way”. That sat with me deeper than anything I had heard in years.
So if you’re afraid to ask for help, if you feel embarrassed or ashamed, or if asking for help makes you feel weak remember that it’s a cycle we all go through. It’s normal, it’s natural, and it’s necessary. Reach out. Call that friend or loved one. Let them know what’s going on and that you need help. Let them pour into you as you pour into others and see the many ways you begin to grow as well as bless others with your vulnerability