Have you ever wanted to ask for help but talked yourself out of it, thinking you should be able to handle it yourself? That you’re burdening people by asking, or that they’ll think less of you if you’re honest about needing support? Most of us feel good when we’re asked to help someone we care about, but being on the receiving end of support can feel entirely different.
When I went through a divorce I was overwhelmed and lonely, and as the person who usually provides the support to my family, I was embarrassed to reach out. I was ashamed to admit that I was struggling and hesitant to inconvenience anyone with my issues. It wasn’t until my sister convinced me that it would make her feel better as well, that I relented. She asked me a good question, “Would you think less of me if I asked for help?” When you are brave and vulnerable enough to invite someone else to see you struggle, you make it ok for them to struggle, too. As author Cheryl Strayed says, “Bravery is acknowledging your fear and doing it anyway.”
In the years since my divorce, I’ve come to recognize asking for help as a courageous act of self-care that can even jump-start the healing process.
Here are a few ways I’ve found to make the process of being vulnerable easier and increase your chances of getting what you need.
- Call someone who has your back 100%. Choose them because you trust that you’ll have a safe place to share whatever you need.
- You are not on anyone else’s timetable. You can let people know what’s going on when it works for you, not them.
- If it’s too overwhelming to think about providing ongoing updates to friends and family, have someone do it for you. Your trusted person can communicate your message in the way that you choose.
- When you do speak with people, let them know what you need. You might say, “I’m telling you this but I’m not ready to hear anything other than you love me and support me. When I need advice on the next steps, I’ll let you know. In the meantime, please just let me cry/yell/etc.”
- Don’t take the calls you aren’t ready to take. The people who matter will be there when you’re up to it.
- Make a list of the things that are most important to you (spending quality time with your kids, being productive at work, taking an hour for yourself) and align your asks with those priorities. If you’re not up for personal interaction, ask for items to be left at the door, or to drop kids off without coming in. Most people are happy to help and will understand your desire to stay out of sight for a bit.
- Potentially the most important thing you can do is recognize that every situation is unique, and you are entitled to handle yours in the way that feels right to you. Be kind to yourself and open to possibilities. The reality is that any one of us may not respond to a crisis in the way we hope or anticipate. It’s ok. Let your expectations go and deal with the moment the best you can.
I hope my personal shift about asking for help has positively impacted those in my life and made it easier for them to reach out as well. However, you do it, extending grace and saying yes to those in need creates a positive cycle.