A couple of months ago I read an article on the Book of Life website entitled, “Asking for Help.” http://www.thebookoflife.org/on-asking-for-help/
It hit home.
I am no slouch in responding to people in need, but I am inept at asking for help for myself.
The article suggests that people like me think it is shameful and a character flaw to need help. But the article’s author claims the truth is quite the opposite: 1) asking for help is a character asset not a flaw and 2) needing help is not a weakness.
Intellectually I agree.
Since reading the article, I have made a concerted effort to ask for a few simple things from people, and while asking feels foreign, I find the responses totally pleasant!
So what’s behind my delay in being able to feel this pleasure?
Part of our behavior is in our DNA, but a family’s belief system can give DNA a run for its money.
I come from a long line of stoic hard-working women according to my grandmother. I learned the particulars while chronicling my family history back to my great-great-grandmother, Kathryn (nicknamed Kat), in the 1800’s.
Kat had been a fiercely independent “teen” who refused to cook or sew. Instead she focused on guns and riding with her father’s ranch hands. Eventually she married the foreman, Phil.
Kat wanted more land than Phil could afford in central Ohio, so they left to claim part of 1500 acres of wilderness in Northwest Ohio, referred to as the Black Swamp. The success of their adventure depended upon James Hill’s invention, the Buckeye Traction Ditcher, which could rapidly lay drainage tile.
Upon arrival Kat and Phil camped with their toddler under a canvas lean-to tied to a
tree. Phil cleared land and stacked logs for their future one-room cabin, while Kat foraged and killed game.
Coming forward, Kat raised my grandmother after her mother died giving birth to her. Decades later the tables turned, and Kat lived with my grandmother until she died in her sleep at 103, after a day’s work in the garden and an evening pipe.
Pretty Poor, Pretty Proud
No ancestor of mine was well-off, but everyone was strong and quietly proud. Until my mother came along. My mother’s father died when she was four, and the banked life insurance allowed her to start college in 1933. She would become a social worker and a professional soft soul. As a kid, I remember thinking she was oddly “out of sync” with the rest of “us.”
Bottom line, I came into adulthood believing: “I am to stand on my own two feet, and keep my balance while juggling several responsibilities without help. And if things don’t go well? I am to take it in the chops and keep going!”
Who am I kidding?
Stepping back from a worm’s eye view, independence is an illusion. I may have a self-sufficient attitude, but I am part of an interdependent species.
From infancy forward my life has depended upon someone else’s mental and physical labor or emotional support. My becoming competent is a result of someone else gifting, teaching, hiring, mentoring, paying, promoting, liking, or loving me.
Everything I currently do or have is dependent upon someone else’s effort. From the moment I get up in the morning, what I touch, read, watch, eat, drive, drive on, sit on, wear, walk-on – as well as the day’s outcome – depends upon others having contributed.
I receive help one way or another every single day!
What happens when what I want and need doesn’t just show up?
I am going to have to ask for it, aren’t I? And I will no doubt have an easier time asking if I think I deserve the help. (Whoa! E-gad, I am a pain, aren’t I?)
The Book of Life article suggests 1) I speak up a little louder and hate myself a little less, and 2) remain hopeful that those around me will respond once they realize I need their help.
And it would be a good for you to do the same.
For more information:
School of Life: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_School_of_Life
Founder Alain de Botton