Is it weak to ask for help?
Some of us are so fiercely independent it can be not just our greatest strength, but — as it often the case — our greatest weakness too.
I see it very often with my coaching clients. Smart, strong kick-ass men and women who are life’s givers, helpers and doers. They never ask for help, but give their assistance generously and often. A beautiful women called Donna springs to mind. She had had a serious, properly serious, health issue. And instead of telling her loved ones and her work so she could get some much needed support she told no-one. She went off to all the scary specialists appointments solo. She shared nothing of the invasive monitoring and medication. She held the frightening waiting “we don’t know what it is” testing period all on her own. She was genuinely in fear for her life, and burst into tears the minute she reached the safety of my coaching room. Yet she had shared with no one else and was staunchly reticent not to ask for help. She didn’t want to be a bother or a burden. A worry or a passenger. So she was carrying this life-threatening worry all to herself, all day and all night.
Here’s the thing. We talk a lot here about self-responsibility. About the power of our own choice. About owning our emotional reality. Self-efficacy is king. People who don’t own their stuff, fully and consciously, do not have happy lives. Fact. Self-responsibility is the cornerstone of a life well lived.
But, here’s the thing, asking for help sometimes, is NOT a sign of weakness. Doing it habitually, as a crutch to avoid taking responsibility for yourself, is. Speaking up at times of crisis and asking to share the load — that IS what friends and family are for. And no one will think any the worse of you for it. In fact if you are one of life’s survivors, it’s likely you ask for help so rarely that people will be delighted to lend a hand in your time of need. After we talked, Donna did just this. She met with her boss, and her boyfriend and sister put them fully in the loop. She now has the support she needs, as well as being unquestionably safer, given there would be a timely reaction should she undergo a second attack. It would actually have been selfish of her NOT to share this health crisis, to deny the people who love and care about her the opportunity to support her when she routinely does so much for them.
As we talked it all through, tissues in hand, I gave Donna this mantra. It’s something that is dear to my heart and as a fiercely independent person myself is something I will whisper to myself too:
It’s not selfish to reach out in times of need. It’s actually selfish not to. To deny people who love you the opportunity to support you in times of need is unfair, and in Donna’s case was actually unsafe. Sometimes the load is too heavy to shoulder alone. Sometimes, just sometimes it’s our time to take, and that’s okay.
So, keep that fierce independence spirit — it will serve you well — but remember the balance: “Give when you can. Take when you must”.
Louise is a life coach, author and corporate escapee. Visit louisethompson.com for more.