In my early twenties, as I was learning how to be an adult, I asked for help a few times. Once I was really unhappy in a job and another opportunity came my way. I asked for help in pro'ing and con'ing my options. I had a sense that I should pass up the opportunity, but I wanted some guidance before making the decision. What I received instead was an unhelpful and protracted lecture over the phone about how this job change was a terrible idea. Old stuff that had nothing to do with me was drudged up. There was yelling. For minutes without end. I felt belittled and demeaned. I felt as though I wasn't to be trusted with my own decision making. I sobbed and finally stopped the tirade by saying I wouldn't take the job.
A few other times, I asked a particular friend for help and he was conveniently never available. I had allowed myself to be vulnerable with this friend. Each time he went out of his way to be unavailable, the story I was writing in my head about asking for help grew gloomier and more twisted. Asking for help was futile. It was a sign of weakness. It didn't get one anywhere. One might as well knock off the neediness and get to work sorting things out for oneself.
There were benefits to this do-it-yourself approach. I learned that I was a resourceful and creative thinker. I found work-arounds that I wouldn't have found if I'd been working with others. I was proud of my self-sufficiency. But this approach was also isolating and lonely.
Then a new chapter of my story began. I found myself owning a home solo, and creative work-arounds go only so far.
Excessive rains the day after Christmas caused my basement to flood. The carpet and padding were ruined and had to be torn out and removed.
The ceiling fan and light in my bedroom stopped working. The switch needed to be replaced.
The wooden patio steps rotted and needed to be rebuilt.
You get the idea.
These broken things needing repair came at me in rapid succession. Sometimes I couldn't catch my breath between one problem and the next. The corrective tasks were above my skill levels. It was time to admit I needed the help of people with different expertise. I mothered myself by insisting and encouraging the idea that asking for
help was not the sign of weakness or failure I once believed it was. In time, I regarded my requests for help as signs of maturity, growth, and strength.
I also realized that in the give-and-take equation of life there must be people willing to take or the equation can't work. I'd spent so much time being the giver. By insisting on going it alone so much, I wasn't contributing to the equation by giving people who care about me an opportunity to help.
Recently, I received a letter in the mail saying that the peeling paint on the trim framing my garage was in violation of some city ordinance. I was caught off guard and super annoyed. I did not have time, energy, or money for this. I let the initial feelings of frustration and embarrassment pass, and then I texted my neighbor for help. He made recommendations for next steps. My parents were in town during this time. My fix-it dad pulled out the ladder and the supplies he needed and got to work.
I thanked him profusely and let him do his thing. I didn't feel any of the old feelings of weakness or being incapable. I simply felt gratitude. I know that asking for help is an important element of self-care.