The Gift of Asking For Help. Why We Resist – And Shouldn’t.

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Welcome to Format Free Friday, when I break the format of answering your questions and I dispense that which we rarely welcome in life: Unsolicited Advice.

I am both amazed at how resistant humans are to ask for help – and guilty of it. Who can blame us? We live in a society that places enormous value on self-sufficiency and on taking personal responsibility (likely to be my Ted Talk topic one day). Just walk into a bookstore (if you can find one) and compare the amount of space dedicated to self-help in comparison to other topics. It’s not called the “Ask For Help” section. And if you’d been a fly on the wall of my living room during the month of July when my niece lived with me, you would have witnessed a familiar dialogue between us:

Her: Aunt Darcy, how do you [insert question here]?

Me: Google it.

It’s not that I didn’t want to help. I often knew the answer. But she’s going to college at the end of the summer and I want her to have the skill set to answer her own questions. So in essence, I’m creating the exact double bind in her that I want to address in this post: I want her to have equal ability to solve her own problems and to request help in solving her problems. Here’s why:

Asking for help is vulnerable stuff – and that stuff is the glue that bonds us, that solidifies friendships and attachments. It tells the other person that we trust them enough to show up for us and that we trust our bond enough to make a small withdrawal in the form of a favor. And it gives the person permission to ask for help in return.

Remember the last time you helped someone? Remember how that felt? Every time you don’t ask for help, you rob that person in your life of the opportunity to feel that way.

Now don’t get me wrong – I’m not suggesting that we become a society of lazy people who look first to others before doing things for ourselves. But I am suggesting that it’s a balancing act. And when you demonstrate the strengthto ask for help appropriately, it’s actually an act of kindness. And that’s the gift in asking for help.