“I can do it all my own self” is what my 3-year-old daughter was often heard saying. And that hasn’t changed. By the time she asks me for help, she has worked her now-14-year-old self into a frenzy of panic and anxiety.
I guess she learned from the best, because I am terrible at asking for help. On an intellectual level, I understand that it’s fundamentally impossible to know everything. If we knew it all, then we wouldn’t have to hire a lawyer or a gardener or talk to a sales person in a store.
I feel better asking for help when I feel I can reciprocate in some way. This approach worked well when my daughter was younger. I would ask a friend to babysit her in exchange for me then taking their kid(s) another time. In small communities, trading services is a common practice; I’ll tend to your garden if you help me move a couch.
Rarely does someone come knocking at your door at the exact time you need them to. Strangely, I struggle just as much with accepting help that hasn’t been asked for as I do from asking for help. When I dislocated my ankle a few months ago, a friend of my roommate showed up at the door one day, said she had an hour to spare and asked what I needed done. She managed to clean my bathroom and do a huge pile of dishes.
Asking for help is not a weakness. It doesn’t tell others that I’m weak or not able to cope. Quite the contrary, in fact. For anyone leaving an abusive relationship or moving to a new country or sending a flare from a boat, asking for help is often the bridge between hope and action.