Why can it be so hard to ask for and receive support?
Why do we often accept doing more with less—stretching ourselves thinner and thinner?
Why is it that even when support shows up—whether it’s a simple act, like someone offering to take our suitcase down from the overhead locker on an airplane, or a bigger gesture, like an offer to help us with a project or personal situation that involves the giving of time, money, or effort—we reject the support rather than receive it with grace?
This is a question I have asked myself for over a decade, whilst researching the root reasons.
I saw so many smart, strong women, including myself, struggling underneath all of the burnout, overwhelm, and distress. We seemed to be able to get high marks for being strong achievers and generous caregivers, but when it came to being un-apologetic gracious receivers, most of us failed.
We have become so self-sufficient as self-empowered women that we have become overly self-reliant.
>> We’ve become so used to doing whatever needs doing that we don’t pause to consider that we may need help to do it.
>> We don’t consider that when we don’t have the resources we need, maybe we shouldn’t take something on.
>> We’ve grown so accustomed to having to fight for what we need, or just barely scrape by, that we’ve gotten used to making do, and doing more ourselves.
We seem to be stuck in a vicious cycle in which the responsibility to do it all on our own, without sufficient support, is our reality. Like Olympic weight lifters, we’ve hoisted the burdens on our shoulders, and held it there.
But truthfully, too many women are buckling at the knees, and our girls are feeling the pressure much too young. There is so much unnecessary guilt, shame, judgment, and overgiving, and it’s costing us in significant, life-altering ways.
I’ve witnessed women break bones, get sick, lose breasts, because only then, when their physical bodies broke down or got slowed down, were they forced to receive support. And even still, we resist receiving. Why?
Needing others makes us feel uncomfortable and vulnerable. Not being able to take care of ourselves made us feel weak and lazy. We’ve mistaken needing support as being needy, instead of embracing support as a basic human need.
This is not our fault, but it is our shared common experience, and my fierce feminine heart is saying, “No more!”
Part of the unspoken truth of why we just keep doing and saying yes to taking more on, without the resources, time, and support we need, is this:
>> We’ve all received deep societal and familial imprinting against receiving support, which has made it almost impossible for us to receive what we need, encouraged us to take on too much, and push away support in many forms.
>> In the past we have not received the support we needed.
>> We’ve never received training on how to “receive” fully, without guilt, apology, or feeling like we have to give back.
Before we can elevate to higher levels of awareness and operating, we have to first acknowledge what has been. We cannot spiritually bypass, logically think, or positively affirm ourselves out of the realities in which we are not getting the support we need.
This doing more with less and pushing on without the support and resources we need has had an impact on our our quality of life, physical, emotional, and mental health, and on our intimate relationships, families, desires, and work.
Only after we acknowledge what is, can we set the burden down, be free of what has been, and step into new possibility. We are the only ones with the power to feel and be supported now. Our lives, our missions, and the lives of our children depend on it.
As we increase our self-awareness, we start to see what we’ve been blind to before, or didn’t have words to understand. This is where our power to do things differently is.
These are the six saboteurs that prevent us from receiving the support we need:
1. You have equated not needing support with strength and needing support with weakness. It feels weak, vulnerable, or disempowering to accept support. You judge that you should be able to do it on your own.
2. You believe that if you receive support, you are taking away from others, or putting a burden on them. You don’t want to weigh others down with your struggle. You tell yourself that others need the support more than you—you’ll be fine.
3. You do not know how to ask for what you need in a direct and healthy way. You were not taught to be empowered to ask for what you need, so you wait until you are in dire circumstances, or you ask in distorted or disempowered ways.
4. You don’t even really know what you need. You are moving so fast, doing so much, or focusing so intently on what’s going on at work, in the world, or with other people that you have not asked yourself what you need in a long time, if ever.
5. You have stopped asking for what you need, because in the past when you asked, you didn’t get it. You’ve experienced being met with something other than kindness, generosity, and empathy when you asked for support. It became safer and smarter not to ask.
6. You have been fending for yourself for so long that you don’t trust that you can or will be supported. You’ve had to take care of yourself and others so completely that you don’t believe it can be any different.
The next step is to go into your day-to-day life and see how you are pushing away support or shouldering the burden—in how you show up at work, in relationships, in how you design your personal, professional, financial, relational, and emotional life.
As you see these, start to get curious about what is underneath, at the root of you taking on too much, and receiving too little. Know that you are not alone, this is a challenge for almost every woman I know. Together, we can shift this for ourselves and the generations to come.