“Can you help me?”
It’s a simple 4-word question, but for some people, this make or break question can be the hardest four words they can ever say. I was one of these people.
I like to think of myself as a strong independent woman. I can handle just about anything life throws at me, and, when life in all her graces decides to throw me the shitter of all curveballs, I’m usually pretty good at sourcing and implementing a solution all by my lonesome. I am, all in all, fairly self-sufficient. I’ve had to be. When you’re as stubborn and difficult as I am, asking for help really grates against the grain.
Over the past few years, however, along my journey of self-discovery and looking internally, I have realised something; asking for someone’s help or advice does not make you weak or stupid or insignificant. It actually makes you stronger.
There’s that old saying:
“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”
Yes, this quote applies to teachers, but also to learners. Halfass a job yourself and you’ll never really, truly figure out how you did it and be able to effectively and efficiently reproduce the result. Or even worse, you won’t even be able to finish the task you’re attempting, and have to give up in a broken frustrated heap. Been there, done that, not a nice feeling. Have the sense to ask for the advice and help of someone in the know, and you’ll produce a higher quality result every time.
Asking for advice and help does not show that you are weak and unable to cope, or that you are somehow inadequate or unworthy. It instead shows your intelligence, integrity and self-awareness; you know and can see your strengths and weaknesses. You know when soldiering on blindly just isn’t going to cut it and stop, put your hands up, and say “I need some help”.
The biggest barrier stopping many independent (read: stubborn) people, not just women, from asking for help is that to admit you need help is to admit vulnerability. I struggled with this so much. I put in so much effort into having my shit together and into being a strong, capable young woman. How could I possibly admit that I had no idea what I was doing? That I was incapable of doing it all? Wouldn’t that make me look weak and incompetent? Or worse – stupid?
The truth is people don’t want to see some invincible character that never slips or falters. Everyone knows this is a facade worn by those who in truth tend to be deeply insecure and are perhaps most in need of the help they cannot ask for. People want you to ask for help; it shows them you’re human.
Asking for help causes you to be vulnerable in the most painful way. In order to ask for help, you have to drop your shield and guards and admit that you are not superhuman. You don’t know what you’re doing. The workload you’ve taken on or been given is too much. Admitting that you’re not indestructible and can’t do it all is a level of vulnerability that many people, myself included, really struggle with. It’s anxiety inducing, and terrifying, and just plain uncomfortable.
But you know what’s even more uncomfortable and anxiety-inducing?
Suffering from stress and burnout because you just couldn’t admit that you couldn’t do it all. Not getting that promotion or raise or audition just because you couldn’t bring yourself to ask for a little advice and mentoring.
Asking for help is hard, but the results of not doing so are even worse. Take my advice; ask. You’ll feel like crap – the first few times. Eventually, common sense and the wonderful lack of stress and panic cause you to realise just how beneficial that help can be.
It’s hard. I get it. I’ve been there.
Just go for it.