We recently were watching an episode of Doc McStuffins – one of the preferred TV shows these days – and in the midst of the dialogue I usually tune out, I heard this kernel of wisdom that was both simple and profound, and most certainly true.
We can ask for help and still be brave.
At some point, many kids seem to lose sight of this. They ask for help with everything in the earliest stages of their lives. They are completely reliant upon others. And then at some place along the way that is nearly impossible to pinpoint, they start being more than just independent; they see something wrong with asking for help.
Why We Struggle With Asking for Help
I think they learn much of that from us. As adults, we are terrible about seeing asking for help as weakness. All the movies, programs, commercials, advertisements, and just about every other message we hear make it abundantly clear that there’s something wrong with us.
Some rule has been passed down through the generations that it’s up to us to do it and fix things ourselves. Marketers sell us stuff so we can do just that. Movies and TV programs help us imagine ourselves in lives different and better than our own. The message is that we should do everything ourselves, and if we can’t, something is wrong with us.
We buy into this, and we pay dearly for it. We were not made to face the challenges of the world alone. There is no weakness in asking for help. The only mistake is not asking for help when you need it. You can ask for help and still be brave. As a matter of fact, you are brave when you ask for help.
Asking for and Receiving Help is Hard
To reach out to another person is to become vulnerable. To share with them your challenges without really knowing how they will react feels somewhere between awkward and terrifying. To open yourself up to this is an act of bravery. But the act of connecting with another person, especially one facing similar struggles, is such a gift. It is the reward for your brave act, and it will happen far, far more often than it won’t.
To accept help is hard. Everybody from friends and family to people we don’t even know have graciously given us gifts, care packages, fundraisers, and just written checks out of the blue to help us with our massive pile of medical bills. For a long time I felt terribly awkward accepting these gifts. I’m supposed to be able to handle this myself, I thought.
But a wise person told me that every time someone offers a gift from their heart like this, I should always start my response with two words: “Thank you.” They want to help our son and our family. Thank you. He inspires them to volunteer their time and talents to help. Thank you. And as they help us, we become more free to help others and continue this cycle. Thank you.
Building Relationships is Essential
Never before in human history has connectedness with people with challenges similar to yours been such a widely available option. Find the people who speak your language on Facebook or Twitter or somewhere in the blogosphere. Find bloggers who are writing about the same kind of challenges you’re facing and contact them. Don’t be bashful about this. Not everyone will respond; a lot of people have very hectic lives. But this is OK. It’s not personal. Some will, and they will help you, and you won’t feel so alone.
We build relationships by asking for, receiving, and giving back support. Reaching out to another for help, accepting that help, and then in turn seeking out others in need of help are all such brave acts. This relationship building calls forth the best of what it means to be human. We are made for connection with each other.
We Can’t Do This Alone
And one thing is for sure. We can’t do this alone.
We can’t help our children grow into the fullest expressions of themselves alone. We can’t face the challenges of school systems and government agencies alone. We can’t learn what we need to know alone. We can’t make sense of, let alone deal with, all of our emotions alone.
In short, we are so much stronger together than we are alone.
And it all starts with the brave act of reaching out to another and saying, “Hey. I’m having a hard time with this, and I was wondering if I could ask you a question.” That’s it. That’s where bravery and human connection meet and something amazing happens.
You’re not the only one facing the difficulties in your life – far, far from it. No matter what it is, you are not alone in the challenges and emotions you are experiencing. Start searching for those people and connect with them. And just keep telling yourself that asking for help is one of the bravest things you can ever do.