January 8, 2024

The Real Reason we Can’t Ask for (or Accept) Help.


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Why can’t I just let people help me? I wondered.

I laid flat on my stomach. The floor felt cool against my cheek. My eyes followed the tight vertical lines weaving the grain pattern in our golden oak floors.

Placing my palms flat on the floor, I tried to push my body up into a knee plank. Before I could slide one knee forward, my back fired a spasm. The muscles contracting sent me face down again, and a single tear rolled out of my eye.

“Don’t try to move yet. I told you I’ve got it,” my husband said from somewhere in the house. The sound of his voice bouncing off the walls above me.

Earlier in the day, I had scrubbed, mopped, dusted, and vacuumed the house in preparation for hosting the holidays. There were tell-tale signs along my journey from room to room indicating I had overdone it. Rather than taking a break or asking for a hand, I ignored pain traveling from my sciatic nerve, the familiar twinge telling me to back off.

The next sound I heard was the high-pitched squeal of the vacuum, then a whoosh of suction. I couldn’t figure out where he was vacuuming because there was no vibration on the floor.

I started to wiggle my body like a worm toward the noise. Turning my head to the side, I saw my husband vacuuming our barn wood dining room table.

If I hadn’t thrown out my back would I have chosen vacuuming as the method to clean the dining room table? No. Was it effective? Yes. But more importantly, did my husband seem to mind helping? Not at all.

As my thoughts swirled along with the rhythm of the vacuum motor, I allowed my mind to get lost in the sound. In that quiet moment I realized it wasn’t that people around me didn’t want to pitch in—it’s that I was more effective at pushing them away.

Refusing help, even when I really needed it.

“Some people aren’t good at asking for help because they’re so used to being ‘the helper’. Throughout their life they’ve experienced an unbalanced give and take, so their instinct is usually, ‘I’ll figure it out on my own.’ The self reliance is all they’ve ever known.” ~ Toni Tone

I certainly grew up with the belief that the less I asked for help, the better. Generally speaking, when it came to emotional support the only consistency was how inconsistent the response would be. There was no guarantee how someone would react if I truly needed something. Avoidance became my default.

I won’t dive into personal circumstances that cemented this concept in my mind, but I do know I am not alone. I have come to understand through meeting people, both professionally and personally, that insecure attachments created during our childhoods create fallacies many of us hold onto as adults:

>> I am fiercely independent and I don’t need anyone to help.

>> Asking for help is a sign of weakness.

>> At a later date someone who helped me might hold it over my head.

>> I am a burden when I need help.

>> Seeking support could shift the dynamic (dysfunctional or not) in relationships if I am not always the one coming to other’s aid.

>> I’ll seem needy or high maintenance.

The first step in breaking this cycle of thinking is awareness. Questioning ourselves as to why we won’t ask others to assist, or unpacking fears we hold about accepting help, is crucial in poking holes in misconceptions that have been ingrained in us.

Once we’ve successfully challenged these old misbeliefs and begin accepting help, the more we have to offer others.

As I barrel-rolled onto my side before attempting to climb to my feet, I took my husband’s helping hand on the way up. I vowed this would be the last time I found myself in this position—physically and figuratively.

P.S. The dining room table looks great. Thanks for the help.

“Until we can receive with an open heart, we are never really giving with an open heart. When we attach judgment to receiving help, we knowingly or unknowingly attach judgment to giving help.” ~ Brene Brown


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