If you know how to ask for help, please help me (and others) learn this skill
For some years now, I’ve been connecting with people like you, who care about building a life around kindness, compassion, and the concept of enough. The people I like to hang out with, online and in person, believe that an obsession with fame and fortune—with what’s popular—blinds us to the essential aspects of a real life. Let’s build and strengthen authentic relationships, because real relationships are not about transactions. Real relationships are based on love.
Still here? Good. Thank you. I have a problem and I will value your input.
I don’t know how to ask for help. Do you?
If you know how to ask for help, please offer your tips and reflections, book suggestions, quotes, anything that will contribute to this conversation, in the comments below.
Only last night, I realized that not knowing how to ask for help has been my life long problem, my achilles heel. And now in midlife, I’m limping, getting nowhere fast, when I really, really need to be moving ahead.
I’m too self-reliant and I take too much responsibility–I wasn’t aware of this. But recently I’ve been learning to open my heart to others, to listen to their wisdom. It can be helpful to see ourselves through the eyes of those who love us. This is what I’ve heard from my dear ones in the last month alone:
After giving a presentation on Book of Transformations: Poetry, Spirituality, Love (a book I’m writing) for the Studium scholars and Sisters of Saint Benedict’s monastery, my friend Chuck Huff (a professor of Psychology and soon-to-be-published graduate-level textbook author), came up to me, hugged me, and said. That was a really clever line about your mask. How did you put it? I had said,
I can handle all this, if I just stay here behind my spiffy mask of optimistic competence.
Right, he said. And then he looked deeply into my eyes—the windows to my soul—and said something that possesses the power of a prayer,
It’s time to take off that mask.
I suppressed the urge to bawl like a baby. I don’t cry in public.
Two weeks later, enjoying a wonderful, long-overdue girlfriend chat with my lifelong friend, the poet/writer Susan Thurston, I relayed that story. And she said,
Yeah, you don’t do vulnerability.
Well, no, I don’t do vulnerability, because, egads, it opens you to more pain. I have plenty of that already, thank you very much.
And then, just last night, proud of all I have accomplished in the past years, said to my husband,
I don’t do that cry-baby ‘help me’ thing!
My dear husband, who, by the way, is ten years into the process of non-Alzheimer dementia and, miraculously, while losing cognitive power is also becoming wiser, said,
No. You do that ‘don’t help me’ thing.
So, I’ve been looking at online articles this morning, and they’re all search engine optimized to get traffic to a website. I enter the phrase “how to ask for help” into a search engine, and I get sent to an article written by someone who doesn’t actually care to help me, but instead is a content writer paid to turn me into a commodity, a “like” or “hit” to help sell a product or advertising space. This means, the articles I found are mostly superficial and not actually helpful.
4 online articles about ‘how to ask for help’
A social psychologist explains how to ask for help without making it weird
This social psychologist offers 8 Suggestions and a lot of words about ways NOT to ask for help.
Asking for help
This nonprofit crisis support center equates asking for help with mental health crises like depression. Here are 3 bulleted lists with no elaborations: Barriers to Asking for Help; Benefits of Asking for Help; Where to Go to Get Help. Shallow!
How to ask for help and actually get it
This New York Times article comes with the subtitle “People want to help you. You just have to ask.” And that’s pretty much everything the article says. It’s also hard to read the article–it’s so surrounded by ads!
How one company got its employees to speak up and ask for help
And this article isn’t about how to ask for help at all, it’s a case study story about a company that figured out a way to provide better customer service and retain its customers, by making an environment where its employees are rewarded when they ask for help.
Why I need to ask for help
To support myself and my husband, while dealing with he intricate demands of being the primary caregiver to a spouse with dementia, I work as a strategic development and marketing consultant to nonprofit organizations, and small providers of integrative health care. I also take on free lance writing and editing assignments. Meanwhile, I’m working on completing a book, and now and then, a new poem.
To stay sane, I practice Benedictine spirituality, including prayer, reflective reading, silence, service, and stable commitment to my community. I am also devoted to my immediate family—parents, siblings, children, grandchildren and beloved friends. I turn down most new invitations and requests for my time, but I’m still feeling overwhelmed by too many tasks. Thanks to my role models and mentors, I’m actually doing a lot less now than I’ve ever done. All my life I had been doing way, way, way, way, way too much. When I started “tidying up” my life commitments, I had no idea how much clutter I had.
I have been a commitment-hoarder!
I feel overly responsible for getting things done, and done right, and I know that. I need help.
Why it is difficult for me to ask for help
I still am carrying quite a few commitments that haven’t been cleared away, because I don’t feel it’s responsible to just dump them like an oil spill into the river of our interconnected lives. I’m trying to cart them away to a safe place, where there will be minimal damage when I unload them.
Yeah, that’s a smoke screen isn’t it?
But asking for help is like ripping off a bandage that has been there a long, long time. I’m afraid to do it. I’m afraid to see what’s underneath. Would you please do it for me? I just close my eyes and on the count of three . . .
Tell me how to ask for help
Tell me (in the comments below, or via this form that goes directly to my private email) why it’s so difficult to ask for help and how to do it. I’m listening.
According to the experts, I’m doing my blog all wrong. I’m not remotely concerned with what’s popular. I care about what’s meaningful and good in life. If you read this far, a meaningful life must mattes to you, also. Thank you for being here. Your presence blesses me, and this small community of spiritual seekers and book lovers.