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Asking for help is not weakness. It is human.

Asking for help is difficult. For many of us giving help is much easier. Probably because of different connotation we attach to needing help and giving help. Giving help seems to be the position of strong, heroic and successful people. Needing help is for the weak, the losers who cannot do it alone.

This is exacerbated if you work in an organisational culture where figuring things out on your own, is the norm (such as often is the case in Academia). But is needing help weak and giving help strong?

Being human
The truth is as human beings we all need help at some point and we are all called to give help at another point. This not about being weak or strong. It is about being human and knowing we need each other. We need to take turns in giving and receiving help. Being human means being both a giver and a receiver of help.

As Brene Brown so wisely said.  “The truth is when you cannot ask for help without self-judgement you are never really giving help without judgement. When you extract worthiness for helping people that is judgement as well.  But when you give help to someone because you know you will also need help in other moments, that is connection. “ That is helping from a sense of shared humanity: we all need help at some point. We are all in this together both giving and receiving help.

In these uncertain times, with COVID, lockdowns and many of us working from home, we experience more work pressure, more uncertainty, fear and disconnection. We probably need more help than ever! And receiving help and giving help is a powerful way to build connections or to reconnect with others!

Ripple effect
When you are brave enough to ask for help when you need it, you give others permission to do the same. You create a positive ripple effect. Because you are certainly not the only one who finds it hard to ask for help. You are not the only one who stays silent about needing help for fear of being judged for needing help. Your asking for help makes it easier for someone else to ask help as well. Both in your workplace and in your circle of friends and family.

Don’t wait too long with asking for help
And don’t wait too long. Don’t wait until you have exhausted yourself by trying to do it all by yourself, by doing more of the same, working harder and harder, trying to do something alone that cannot be done alone.  Ask for help sooner when you already feel and know- this is too much for me. Before you let it go too far and feel completely exhausted.

Tell-tale signal
For me a tell-tale signal that I should have asked for help way sooner is resentment or anger. This especially is a trap I fall into at home. Recognize this scenario?  Feeling you need a break, or what needs to be done is too much, but you go on without asking for help and then you start being angry at you partner for not offering help. Or you feel angry at your partner for being able to relax while you are still busy. When I feel resentment when doing stuff at home, it often is a sign I should have asked for help sooner, that I am too tired or overwhelmed to do it all on my own. And the beautiful thing is – when I ask "can you help me?", my husband almost always says “sure”.  Or he will tell me after I got angry at him:  just ask for help then instead of getting angry!*) Although we expect people to see we need help, they often cannot see it! So be clear about what you need.

🌱Where could you use help this week? Practically or emotionally?
🌱What if instead of trying to do everything on your own, you would ask for help? What would change for you?
🌱What are your tell-tale signals that you should have asked for help sooner?

*)No this is not about gendered roles where the woman is the one responsible for the household and the man "helps out". This is about a situation where you are both doing your share, but at this point one of you needs help with something.

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© Copyright Samula Mescher