As you can probably tell from my last two posts, I’ve been thinking about help a lot lately. Specifically, how to ask for and accept it -- even when it feels like torture to do so. And you know what I’ve realized? Help is everywhere. It may not look the way you want it to or come from where you want it to come from, but it’s definitely there. And when you’re stuck in survival mode, being controlling about what a helping hand looks like is probably not the best way to use your energy.
But where is it? I don’t see help anywhere! Then it’s time to shift your perspective. I don’t know about you, but when I’m really drowning or maybe just too busy, I have a hard time pausing to fully assess what’s happening around me. I’m on autopilot or too stuck in my own head trying to either prevent or put out fires. When you’re in this mode, it may seem like you don’t have time to pause and observe, but I promise you, this is the best time to do exactly that. How many times have you realized (a little too late) that you could have saved so much time and energy if you had just had a chance to think it through? How often could you have avoided a complicated situation if you had only stopped to ask a willing friend or family member for a favor? I’m willing to bet there are several occasions per day that could benefit from a little outside assistance.
And before you come at me with your rebuttal, yes, I know it’s often ‘easier’ to just do things yourself. That’s my #1 go-to reason for going at it alone even when I know there’s help out there. But seriously, that is one hugely limiting belief.
For one, do you really think you’re the best person for every job? You really don’t think the people around you can do anything as well as you can? That’s pretty insulting to those who would gladly help you out, not to mention unnecessarily exhausting for you. So your husband doesn’t load the dishwasher like you do -- so what? If there are a few dishes that need to be rewashed, he can do that too! Take it from someone with a very controlling perfectionist nature, life goes on even if you aren’t there to do it just right.
Two, it’s not easier to do everything yourself. It’s not. Seriously…. It’s not easier. Sure, you may actually succeed in crossing everything off your to-do list all on your own, but at what cost? It’s not easy going through life frazzled and burned out. It’s not easy to thrive when you don’t have time to take care of yourself. It’s not easy living with people that you have enabled to become totally dependent on you to function. And it’s not easy living in the isolation of a lone wolf. Leaning on the people around us may take a bit more work up front, but over time, it’s way easier to call upon loved ones for a helping hand. Plus -- bonus -- it makes them feel good! And you can return the favor because that’s what friends and family do. We take care of each other.
Shunning help takes on many forms -- both obvious and unexpected -- and our motivation for doing it can be sneaky and hard to see. I’d like to challenge you to read the following lists and really ask yourself if any of the situations resonate with you. Watch out for feelings of defensiveness, and try to be open-minded. If you’re triggered by anything, be sure to lean in and wonder why you’re having a reaction (triggers are often clues for where we need to heal or grow). Then ask yourself if there’s another way. Because I bet there is.
Ways we shun help:
-Our kids want to help clean/cook/etc., but we don’t have time/patience to let them.
-Friends tell you to call them anytime if you need help… you don’t call.
-Your parents offer to babysit, but you don’t want to burden them.
-You qualify for government services or Medi-cal, but you don’t even apply.
-When someone asks how you’re doing, you just say “I’m fine” even when you most certainly are not.
-Guests offer to bring something to parties, but you say “No, thank you.”
-The checker at the grocery store offers to help you out to your car because you have a toddler in the cart and baby strapped to your chest, but you decline because you can handle it.
-Your mom tells you to bring a load of laundry with you when you visit, but you decline.
-Your partner tries to help around house, but he doesn’t ‘do it right’.
-You can afford childcare/housekeepers/gardeners/etc, but you never hire anyone because you don’t NEED to.
Why we shun help:
-You feel guilty.
-You’re too controlling or a perfectionist.
-You’re too proud.
-You’re too insecure and need to prove something.
-You don’t see the available help because of your limiting view of the world.
-You’re stretched too thin to think outside the box and troubleshoot.
-You’re stuck in survival mode and can only react to what’s thrown at you.
-You have a martyr mentality (“Fine, I’ll just do it myself” in a passive aggressive tone)
-You’re stuck in victim mode (“Nobody ever helps me; poor me”)
-Societal or family pressure to do things a certain way (either real or imagined)
-You have unreasonable expectations of yourself.
-You’re comparing yourself to other ‘perfect’ moms and competing with them.
-You feel shame because you’re not living up to your own expectations, goals, or stories about how it should be.
-You don’t want to take up space or be a burden.
-You don’t think the help will make a difference or actually lighten your load.
I mostly fall into the guilty/proud/embarrassed category when it comes to reaching out for help, but I often dabble in the “unrealistic expectations of self” and “comparing myself to other ‘perfect’ people” traps too. Honestly, I probably cycle through every single one of them per month. I just want to do a good job at life, you know? I want to be the best mom, wife, business owner and human I can possibly be. And I so badly want to be strong and independent, but who says needing help contradicts that? It’s a fallacy, and it’s time we let it go.
How have you missed or ignored help in your life? Did any of the motives I listed resonate with you? I’d love to hear from you about it! We’re all in this together, and sharing our struggles is a strength, not a weakness.