Asking For Help

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n University, I was assigned a midterm paper that required me to recount a period of time in which I had asked for help from another person and explore what that experience was like. As the paper was assigned you could see the elation on my peers faces, “what a simple midterm paper” we were surely all thinking. We were terribly mistaken.

Asking for help is hard. So hard, in fact, that many of us avoid it all together. Whether it be asking for a small favor from a family member or friend, or expressing the ultimate vulnerability and admitting that we can’t do this on our own anymore, asking for help tests us, stretches us and creates great discomfort. Deep down, we know we can’t do it alone and need the support of others but making that all-important ask can at times seem like an insurmountable obstacle.

Why is asking for help so challenging?

Asking for help requires vulnerability. It requires admitting that some challenges require the tackling of a team, and not just one person on their own. It requires letting someone in on your experience, opening up and telling your story in a way that is candid, honest, and ultimately, exposing.  It requires stretching out of our comfort zone and into the zone of change, the zone where things feel squeamishly uncomfortable, unnatural and scary.

There is no road map or easy five step protocol for going about this process. It is deeply personal and has to be done in a way that feels authentic and comfortable for you. As you embark on the road to asking for help, remember that vulnerability is a universal struggle, and sharing your story is always a challenge, but being met with warmness, understanding and support from those around you makes it all worth it.

Before you reach out for help, it may be useful to do some personal reflection. Many people are inclined to go into “fixing” mode when someone shared their story with them, wanting to make the situation “all better”. While a “fix” may not always be possible, or the answer, it is worthwhile to reflect upon what you really need at this time.  If your confidant responds by asking, “What can I do to help?” it’s not a bad idea to have some suggestions handy. Maybe you could use a weekly distraction, or someone to drive you to an appointment- whatever it is, asking in a clear and straightforward manner, however uncomfortable, usually helps.

Writing a paper on asking for help, proved to be one of the most challenging midterm papers I have ever written. Recounting personal experience on this matter gave me fresh insight into the complexity of reaching out to another and asking for a supportive hand. When I think about struggles, I like to think of it as an imaginary tug of war. You are on one side and your challenge is on the other. You can pull as hard as you can to try and win the war, but the exertion of consistent strength can fatigue you and burn out is inevitable. However, when you employ the help of others to expand your team, tightening your grips together to pull with might, fighting against your challenge, it is certain to weaken in power. Engage the help of others, seek support and know that while asking for help is incredibly challenging, it makes the tug of war a little less trying.

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