When was the last time you asked for a shoulder to lean on?
Growing up, I was extremely self-reliant. The first person I turned to for help was, well, myself. It felt natural to me that I must be the one to fix my own problems. If I was fretting over a bad grade on an exam, I made myself work harder the next time. If I found myself in the middle of a social upheaval, I made my decisions based on my own moral compass. If I got hurt, I nursed my own wounds. If I got lost, I found my own way. If I needed a helping hand, I reached for my other hand.
I was entirely self-contained, having convinced myself that I should stand on my own two feet come what may. I sought out guidance from others, listened keenly to varying perspectives, and operated with an open-minded disposition, but when it came to asking for help… I refrained. I felt I should be able to carry the weight on my shoulders without redistributing it to my loved ones. I always put a lot of pressure on myself to not inadvertently suck anyone else into my downward spirals, emotional episodes, or the inevitable lows. I was very conscious in keeping my problems to myself, listening to that fervent voice inside that insisted I have the ability to take complete care of myself (even during the really bad times). I automatically looked within for the support I was seeking; I dug deep inside until I found the answer, even if it took a long time or tireless effort of hunting it down. I rarely ever looked outside for my solutions. I just didn’t believe that anything or anyone external of myself could really help me the way I helped myself.
It’s not that I felt like I was too good to lean on somebody else, or too mistrusting to invite a friend into my intimate space. It’s not that I didn’t want others to care for me, or to provide assistance when I could use it the most. It’s not that I thought I was somehow superior to everyone else because I didn’t bother others with my issues. Far from it.
I didn’t ask for help from anyone because I had already decided it wasn’t an option. I had preemptively eliminated the choice of opening myself to somebody else (besides myself) – I thought I was doing the right thing by not needlessly bothering others. I thought I had saved them from the trouble of helping me by when I could just help myself. Also, a part of me felt so secure within myself that I didn’t think I really needed an external source to lend me a pick-me-up when things went awry. I was confident in my abilities to pick up my own pieces, so why would I need to look elsewhere for help?
Honestly, I simply didn’t know any better.
Sure, it’s commendable I wasn’t a needy type clinging on to others for all of my problems, and it’s creditable that I managed to carry my own weight thus far, but the last few years have taught me that I was wrong to think I must be the only one to help myself. Of course I myself will have to bear my burdens, but there is a healthy option to lighten the load if and when necessary: asking for help.
My recent life lessons have repeatedly highlighted the importance of asking for help. Letting my guard down (and a bit of that innate resistance to allowing others into my private space) has done wonders to my ability to accept assistance from outside. I don’t know what convinced me to internalize everything instead of seeking help from outside of myself. Perhaps it was overconfidence or a misleading assurance that I know myself better than anyone else does, so I must know what is best for me? Or maybe it was the fear of reaching out and admitting to my weaknesses, of allowing others to see that I’m just as vulnerable inside as I am unshakeable outside? Or could it be the shame of owning up to the mistakes and errors of judgment within my personal life that will cause me embarrassment once discussed with others? I’m thinking it’s a mixture of all of these. Whatever the reasons, none of them are good enough to justify turning down a helping hand from a loved one (or a well-informed other)… especially when you’re at the end of your rope. There’s no better time to drop the shoulders, realize that outside help will be fundamental, and unabashedly send out the S.O.S signal. Once, twice, however many times you need to put your hand up and ask “Can you help me?”
Admitting you need help is the first step in truly accepting that there is a problem you’re battling with that is beyond your scope.
It is impossible to underestimate the power of asking for help. It opens up a whole new world of possibilities – opportunities you would have easily missed if you weren’t willing to look outside of your cocoon. It instantly bonds personal connections – family, friends, and others – which could comfortably carry you through your rough waves. As long as they truly care for you, they will undoubtedly be there to lend a listening ear, to provide a shoulder to lean on, and most importantly, to hold your hand and support you through the turbulence.
It is a hard step to take (especially when you’re as private as I am) but I have made significant progress in my recent chapters, simply by asking for help. Gone are the days I stubbornly held on to the belief that only I could help myself. I know now that even though I can carry my own weight, support and guidance from my loved ones are invaluable and irreplaceable. There is nothing weak, or shameful, or negative about admitting you need some help. It’s okay to throw your hands up and accept defeat at times of helplessness. You could be asking for directions as a tourist, or you could be seeking guidance to overcome a personal trauma. The depth and breadth for the sort of assistance we seek from others is wide and varied, but all the help we receive (big or small) will be indispensable. I’ve gained knowledge, insight, and perspectives that would have never entered my realm of reality had I not opened myself up and asked for help.
It wasn’t always easy to ask for help, but it sure was necessary.