March 7, 2019

The Mad Skill of Asking for Help

By Brigit Atkin


I’m writing this article as one who is recovering from Perfectionism. One of the traits that stems from being a perfectionist is adhering to the misguided notion that one has to do everything on one’s own, never asking for help. We live in a world where asking for help is often considered a sign of weakness. However, asking for help is actually a form of pride and/or arrogance. Ouch.

I remember an event in my life years ago that taught me the value and importance of letting someone help. I was a harried, stressed mother with four young children. At that time, my husband worked out of town, and I did much of the parenting alone. I literally went through years without much sleep, with many days ending in tears of frustration and exhaustion.

One particular day, I woke up very ill. As is the case with many young and busy moms, I tried to convince myself I was okay. I managed to get myself out of bed, but I didn’t get much further. I was to a point where I couldn’t get off the floor, and I remember thinking, “I’m in serious trouble here, and I can’t take care of my kids. I don’t know what I’m going to do.”

Even in this condition, it didn’t occur to me to ask for anyone’s help. I said a prayer, and that was all I could do. Just a few moments later, a neighbor called to ask me how I was doing. I told her I was really sick and unable to do anything. (Crazy side-note here: Even with someone checking on me, it still didn’t occur to me to ask for help!) I hung up the phone and willed myself to feel better. Then, a miracle happened: There was a knock at my door. With every ounce of my strength, I managed to get up and see who was there. It turned out to be the neighbor who had just called! She was there to pick up my three small children who weren’t yet in school. She didn’t ask me if she could take the children; she announced it, and that was that. She had her own small children to care for, and I knew this was a huge sacrifice for her to make. She saved me that day when I couldn’t save myself, when I wouldn’t even ask for myself.

This was a turning point for me. Now, 22 years later, I still look back on that day with the utmost gratitude for someone who was inspired and willing to make such a sacrifice so my children could be cared for while I was ill.

I see so many other people making this same mistake. Yes, it is a mistake to believe everything is on your own shoulders. It’s a false belief and a self-destructive behavior. Here are some things I’ve learned over the years about the importance and value of letting others assist you in your journey of life:

  • Each of us has a need to serve others. We often ask loved ones if there is anything we can do to help them, and we usually stop there. I believe we do this NOT because we aren’t sincere, but because we don’t know what help is truly needed. Generally speaking, we genuinely want to help those around us, but we don’t want to intrude. Just as we want to help others, we should let others help us! Service blesses the giver and the receiver.
  • Connection. Each of us has unique gifts/talents that we need to share. As a person is given the opportunity to use his or her gifts to help others, not only are these gifts strengthened but the connections between friends, neighbors, family members, and associates are also strengthened. We appreciate each other more, and we grow together in friendship and unity.
  • We have a better outcome. By allowing others to use their talents and skills to help us, projects become manageable, and the finished product is far better than if we tried to tackle it ourselves.
  • We learn how to give and receive. Every relationship in life is about giving and receiving. When we don’t allow ourselves to receive, we eventually become resentful. This is really harmful to any and all of our relationships. Allowing people to help us reminds us that we are worthy of assistance and affirms a healthy feeling of gratitude for all that we are given.

After all of my life experiences, there are still times when I have to remind myself to ask for help. I’m learning to be patient with myself in this process, and I hope you are patient with yourself as well. My husband asked me last week about the topic of this article. When I told him it was about asking for help, he said, “Are you going to do it alone?” Ha! I need his mad skills as an editor. I get to write the article, but he gets to perfect it!  


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