Why is it so difficult to ask for help? We Americans value independence, persistence, and determination but we are rarely honest about the impact of this value system. People are praised for seemingly individual achievements when really, none of us can claim success independently. We achieve long-term goals by cultivating persistence, but we gloss over the moments when we felt defeated. Determination means you push through adversity, but should it come at the expense of our own self-care?
Why does asking for help feel like failure?
Maybe it's because we fear being someone's disappointment. But when we show our struggles to people who care about us, they are compelled to show you theirs. They want to tell you "You are not alone in this life". Give people the opportunity to support you. Don't make their decisions for them. Let them decide how to lift you up. Even Dr. King needed to surround himself with people who built him up when he felt weak. (Selma plug!)
Maybe it's because we don’t want to admit imperfection. Maybe imperfection is a sign of weakness. But if we are more transparent about the struggle, then we can begin to see systemic trends that make life harder for some than others. (I’m thinking of micro- and macroagressions against women and people of color, the LGBTQ community, parents in the workplace…perhaps you can think of other examples). How can we advocate for change if we keep suffering in silence?
Maybe it's because vulnerability is uncomfortable. It is definitely difficult to let other people see your cracks. People ask how you are doing and they want to hear that you’re ok and things are good. They can walk away and remain amazed by your awesomeness. The problem is, this places the ability to do awesome things squarely on “awesome people.” You hear an amazing story and think “I could never do anything like that.” When really, we all have the capacity to do amazing things.
Nobody wants to be a Debbie Downer. But carrying the weight of life around while wearing a smile is exhausting. When you feel like wallowing for a while, it is isolating and lonely when you don’t know that others before you have also wallowed on their way to success. So be vulnerable with someone today. Choose a person who cares about you, and tell them that you are lonely, joyful, in love, or in pain. Give people a chance to surprise you.
*Note: I’ve been reading, thinking, and talking about vulnerability a lot lately, and this book sparked my interest: Brene Brown “The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are”