Requesting Help

While I believe the problem with asking for help is related to perfectionism, I also think it’s different enough to stand as its own post. I need to ask for help soon, and I’m unsure how to do it. There are a lot of mixed feelings that pop up whenever this happens, and it’s happening more than ever before.

I’ve always struggled with asking for help. I grew up in a house where I was often on my own and often expected to figure things out quietly since there wasn’t room or resources for whatever I had going on. This isn’t necessarily as sad as it may sound because it prepared me to be resourceful and pragmatic. This became more evident to me in college, where I could see things and solve problems in ways that simply didn’t occur to my peers.

As an adult, my world became even smaller. Most of the other parents I know have what appears to be an army of help through extended family. I cannot even for a second imagine what that is like. I can’t imagine what having an emergency with help looks like. I can’t imagine how many emergencies wouldn’t have been emergencies at all with this support in place from the beginning.

We are on our own for the most part, so everything is a bit harder for us–there’s no village” to rely on and contribute to. This was fine for a long time. We did it all and paid for help when necessary. We juggled everything. It was exhausting, and people thought we were super-human. I’m not sure what changed, I suspect age and circumstance are heavily involved, but we can no longer manage as we once did. It’s gone from harder to impossible, from a bit empowering to soul-crushing. I’ve grown confused, defeated, and resentful as a result.

This has all left me guarded and distrusting, even professionally. If someone offers help in a professional context, there can be a lot at play here. It’s possible that they are asking because you appear as if you need help, and that can’t be good. If you ask for help outright, is this saturated with the assumption that you can’t manage your time well or are just too slow? What a wild ride! It can feel so much easier and safer at times to work extra, to get through it alone to avoid getting help that is used against you somehow. This is, of course, a fragile, unrealistic existence.

Additionally, when you invite someone in to help, there’s an unspoken agreement that they then have a say in how things are done. You open yourself up to unsolicited critique. While this can be OK professionally, it’s a nightmare when the matter is of a personal nature. You’re opening yourself up to opinions that are actually judgments, judgments formed without necessary details. You’re opening yourself up to asking for help from people who have denied any previous request. You also lose a piece of ownership over something, and its success is now attributed to many.

This is all especially complex and tricky to process when you’ve lived a life that involves trying to figure out how to sue your father when barely an adult yourself and having to get two siblings ready for school because parents never came home that night and cell phones didn’t exist. On top of this baggage, I’m supposed to also know when things will actually be different and when the situation calls for help in a way that is worth any drawbacks that come with it. In theory, asking for help is supposed to make things easier, but that mostly hasn’t been the case so far.

So, I have a complicated history with asking for help, but I want to figure this out–I need to figure this out. I can see the value in it, and, at this point, I no longer have the luxury of it being an option, and I want to do it differently this time. I want to be more specific in what I need, be less guarded and more trusting, and drum up enthusiasm for a collaboration over trying to always go it alone. If it doesn’t work out, I don’t want it to act as validation of jaded thoughts and lessons learned from past experiences–I need to break free of those and try to move forward.

Professionally, I’m going to write up goals and specific needs and be open to a true partner in these efforts. Personally, I need to be very direct in asking for help since this is not something people expect of me at this point. I need to ask for help since it won’t come otherwise, and I need to be open to disappointment if any help I’m able to get doesn’t look exactly as I hoped. I also need to be open to the concept of it being successful in a way I hadn’t anticipated–I can’t control everything and no longer feel like trying to.

See you tomorrow over breakfast.

February 26, 2024

A tiny project byJoni Trythall inspired by friends at Wiggle Work.