The Mad Skill of Asking for Help

I’m writing this article as one who is recovering from Perfectionism. One of the traits I believe that stems from being a perfectionist is adhering to the misguided notion that one has to do everything on his or her own, never asking for help. 

I believe that we live in a world where we feel that asking for help is a sign of weakness. Actually it is a form of pride and/or arrogance. Ouch. I remember an event years ago in my life that taught me the value and importance of letting someone help. I was a harried, stressed mother with 4 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 with many young and busy moms, I tried to convince myself I was Ok. I managed to get myself out of bed, but 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 me and asked me how I was doing. I told her I was really sick and not able 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. And then a miracle happened: a knock at my door. With every ounce of strength I had, I managed to get up and see who was there – it turned out to be my neighbor who had just called! She was there to pick up my 3 small children who weren’t yet in school. She didn’t ask, 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, and 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 kids could be cared for while I was ill. 

I see so many other people making this same mistake – yes, it’s a mistake to believe everything is all 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 this journey of life:

  • Each of us has a need to serve. We often ask loved-ones if there is anything we can do to help, 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, and we don’t want to intrude. But, generally speaking, we genuinely do want to help those around us. Just as we want to help others, so we should let them serve us! It blesses your life, and it blesses theirs.

  • Connection. Each of us has unique gifts/talents that we need to share. As a person is given the opportunity to use those qualities to help another, not only are these gifts strengthened, but so are the connections between friends, neighbors, family members, and associates. We appreciate each other more, and we grow together in friendship and unity.

  • We have a better outcome. By letting those help in their capacity, 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, I find I still have to remind myself to ask for help at times. I’m learning to be patient with myself in this process, as I hope you are with yourself as well. My husband asked me last week what topic I was writing this article about. When I told him it was about asking for help, he said, “Are you going to do it alone?” Ha. No, I need his mad skills as an editor. He gets to perfect it.  

Happiness Mindset – Make it a Happy New Year

I once listened to a stand-up comedian joke about a burglary scheme he wanted to try: he wanted to break into houses in a neighborhood and steal. But instead of thieving valuable TVs and electronics, he just wanted to steal the remote controls. Afterward, he planned to drive around that neighborhood and look in the windows so he could laugh at everyone’s frustration at not being able to change the channel. A real prankster. But there’s actually some truth for each of us in this comic routine: we often give others the remote control to our happiness. 

“Most people are about as happy as they make up their mind to be.” So said Abraham Lincoln.  It isn’t what happens to us in life that determines our happiness so much as how we react to what happens.  There are so many things that are outside our control; however, we can always control our thoughts about those things. If, for example, you lose your job, you get to choose how you respond. You may view the circumstance as the opportunity to start that new business you’ve been contemplating – or, you might decide that you must be stupid, incompetent, or unneeded. If these unhealthy thoughts continue, the result will be drastically different and completely unhappy. 

Carolyn Cooper, founder of SimplyHealed ™, often refers to the following sequence that determines our happiness: A) An event happens B) A person has a belief about what just occurred, and C) The consequential result, based on that belief. She uses the example of a football game: one team loses, one wins. Same event, but very different reactions to that event, depending on a person’s belief (in this case, which team you are on). 

Choosing to be happy can be one of the greatest challenges of life. Maturity means taking responsibility for our own happiness and choosing to be grateful for what we have, instead of focusing on what we lack.  There’s always a reason to be grateful for what we have right now, even if it’s nothing more than knowing you are learning an important life lesson.  Gratitude is key to happiness. Always start right where you are, and be truly thankful in your circumstance. Remember that on the other side of this problem is an undoubtedly more resilient and wise person of strength.

Watch your thoughts vigilantly, knowing what to keep and what to discard. It seems to be human nature to remember an insult for years, and forget a compliment we received just yesterday. If we aren’t careful, this mindset will train us to become garbage collectors, carrying around trash that was thrown at us years ago.  Being happy can be hard work sometimes. It’s kind of like maintaining a nice home – you’ve got to keep your treasures and toss the junk. 

This new year, may we all maintain full ownership of the remote control to our own joy. Thieves may try to break in and steal, but we have the power to keep our happiness safe. Remember there’s a lesson in everything – if you’re looking for it. “Happiness is a direction, not a place.” Sydney J. Harris