May I Help You?

From the time we are born, people help us. In ideal situations, our mothers and fathers feed us, protect us, love and care for us, doing everything needed to ensure our survival. As we grow, we take on more and more of these tasks, but still, we are helped: up the stairs,  learning how to read, tying our shoes, preparing our food, learning right from wrong.

We master the tasks of learning to read, and write, and run, and think; but still with the help of others in an ever-widening circle. Teachers, coaches, aunts, grandparents, siblings and friends.

We move into the age where we begin to be able to help others, even if in very small ways: carrying our plate to the sink, taking the hand of a younger sibling; putting away toys and maybe helping to fill lunch bags and empty laundry baskets.

Soon, we are in a place in life where it is expected that we will help others;  service hours in school, perhaps becoming parents ourselves, caring for aging parents, committees at work, coaching our kids sports teams, school volunteer hours, and charity fundraising.

We spend our whole life on this pendulum of helping; moving from being in constant need of help to perhaps, for some of us, constant care of others.

There are examples all around us, of how we help each other on a daily basis: watching our friend’s kids, listening to someone in pain, donating blood, holding a door open for another, sitting with a sick friend, remembering a birthday or making dinner for a family in crisis.

We all help, in some form or fashion, but what surprises me is the question: do we really feel comfortable asking for help? Is there something we have learned along the way, a little voice inside that says we should be able to take care of things on our own?

If so, where do we learn to forget to ask for help, or that we somehow shouldn’t, cant? How do we get to a place where we feel as if we could perhaps be a burden on others simply by saying, “I need some help.” Or maybe for some, it’s a fear of needing someone else.

It can be my tendency, and I know others who say, “Oh I don’t want to be a burden on others, I don’t want to impose” I find it curious how as beings who would not survive without help, and in turn nurture our young giving them all the help we can, that somehow, for at least some of us, we can get to a place where asking for help, perhaps even needing help doesn’t always come easily.

It’s known in child development theory that healthy self esteem among kids of all ages comes from the sense and the knowledge that they are valued, that they have something to contribute, provide, that no one else can. They are needed.  Perhaps we might think about asking for help as a way of showing others that we see their unique value, that we see what they can contribute and that they are needed?

What do you think are reasons behind why it may be hard for some people to ask for help? What about you?

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31 thoughts on “May I Help You?

  1. I love the photo with the birds and chuckled when I saw it. I think that like much in life, asking for help needs some balance. If one asks for help too often they can be percieved as needy or a sponge, but if one almost never asks for help they can do serious harm to a friendship. I have a couple of friends who virtually never ask for help, and over time those friendships have waned. There is a healthy level of give and take in strong relationships, and I believe that both giving and asking for help adds value to a relationship. Asking for help can be a great gift as it allows the other person the opportunity to be of service and/or return a favor.

    Thank you you for another strong and thought-provoking post, Bonnie.

    Russ

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    • Russ…thanks so much for your thoughtful response. I completely agree, it’s a fine balance – too much of one or the other and the relationship may not withstand the imbalance. So glad to have you in the conversation! – Bonnie

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  2. I need help. But I’m not sure the kind of help I need is the kind of help I can ask for…

    But seriously, we do all need a helping hand some time or another… Developing relationships through the joyful and happy times builds strength for when we do need a shoulder to lean on!

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    • Gwen
      First – you always crack me up..what kind of help do you need??! 🙂 And second, you are completely right, establishing good connections in the good times is a great foundation for knowing who we can count on, and showing others who can count on us!

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  3. Asking for help means you have to be willing to let go of some control. I like doing things “the right way,” but if I am overwhelmed and need help, then I need to accept that the loving person willing to help does not have to do it exactly the way I would. During a difficult preganancy with two toddlers to care for, I had to ask for help. Wonderful ladies from church came and cleaned my house and cooked meals. So what if they didn’t clean exactly the way I would: it got done and I was humbled and grateful. For me, that’s the hardest part: asking for help and being willing to take it however it comes.

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    • You make an excellent point Maria! Asking for help does mean we have to relinquish some control over the outcome and just accept another’s way of doing things. Which is a good exercise for us, in more ways than one I suppose. Allowing ourselves to be humbled, and cared for, is good, as is seeing another way of doing things from time to time!

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  4. I don’t like to ask for help, it makes me feel weak but I do it when I have too.
    On the other-hand I do like to help people, that makes me feel good 🙂
    ps
    I love the birdie picture

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  5. darned if i know. my husband is the worst ‘just ask for help offender’. he’s always there for others and the people in our life are more than willing to help with whatever, if only he’d ask. they don’t have esp. then they say ‘why didn’t you ask for help’. we have had many ‘discussions’, shall we say regarding this inability to ask for help. Personally, if I need help I say ‘hey, can you help me?’. 5 little words. they’re really not too hard to say.

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  6. My mom is the classic “helper” – always doing things for, and taking care of, other people. This past spring she had to have surgery, and watching her, I know it was a big adjustment to go from the helper to “helped” role. But the good news is, she received a TON of love and support while she was recovering. I think all the people she looks after really cherished the chance to do the same for her. Not because they were keeping score, but because helping someone can be such an expression of love!

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    • I think you pinpointed it so perfectly…”all the people she looks after really cherished the chance to do the same for her” I think at some level, we all want to give, and know that what we have to give is needed, cherished, valued. Right? We are funny creatures, to forget this… xo

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  7. Nailed it again, friend. This past summer, I gave the “you must allow your friends to help you through this” lecture to two friends very much like myself/you. (you know…I do not need help!) I meant it for THEM….as they were dealing with illness, but could I turn that around? And if I do accept “help”, then I must offer money or something to make it right! And how are you at receiving compliments? Is your return a compliment to the other party to take the focus off of you? Uh-huh…..I know. ♥

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    • Thanks so much 🙂 And you make an excellent point, about feeling the need to offer money, or something, to ‘make it right’. Why can we not just take something, and not feel the need to do something in return?? Same with the compliment being turned around…we should make a pact to at least once, just say, thanks! and leave it at that the next time a compliment is paid 🙂 What do you think, can you do it? ♥

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  8. I, too, am really crappy at asking for help…never want to feel like I’m imposing or “putting anyone out.”. As Mimi says, too, there’s the pride factor (I can handle this myself!) And the ridiculous thing is, I’m fully cognizant of how good it makes *me* feel to be able to help someone else, so why wouldn’t I expect that the road runs both ways? I really like your suggestion: “Perhaps we might think about asking for help as a way of showing others that we see their unique value, that we see what they can contribute and that they are needed?”. Kinda turns the situation on its head. Hugs, l

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    • Lori – I know! The whole imposing thing, I am so with you. It’s a burden to carry around at times, and I see others who don’t have that and they look so much more free. I would like to turn things on their head, but it’s easier said than done, right? I guess, one baby step at a time. As independent women, it’s so easy to rest on our competent laurels…but I can’t help but wonder now, what is possible if we turned things on their head!! Hugs to you too 🙂

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  9. Wow, another nail hit squarely on the head with this one. I too see myself as a helper. I actually feel bad if people don’t ask me for help and yet I almost never do the asking for myself. I see helping as a crucial part of any relationship and yet I very rarely let others help me. Definitely something to work on!

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    • Thank you so much…and yes, definitely something to work on. I have seen over and over in blogging, that when we pull back a bit of the veil and reveal bit by bit who we truly are, we are in essence asking for help, and when that occurs, I have seen only wonderful outcomes. Translate this to our 3D lives…the potential is amazing!

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  10. This is such a meaningful post for me today. You wrote exactly what I needed to ‘hear’ because I don’t ask for help when I need it. I just soldier on unless it’s something for my kids (like a ride) that I need. I am a helper as well…seems like helper is the theme of your commenter/readers too! Thanks for ‘helping’ me to see Bonnie! 🙂

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    • Yvonne, thank you, I am soo glad to hear that, if only we could all be in one spot, this conversation has so many layers, so many facets. I love the comments today and what you each have brought to this post. Your comment gives me great joy…I hope you know! 🙂

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  11. Oh BonBon…another one that has my thinking and thinking and RECOGNIZING! I too, like most of the women I’ve met here, find asking for help difficult. But I will say this…I recently sent out an SOS and I didn’t burst into flames! The response from my beautiful friends was swift and loving and unconditional. I think it’s one of those situations where it gets easier in the doing.
    It got me thinking that when ‘helpers’ need help, who better to reach out to, who better to trust, than people we recognize ourselves in? Even more important, it’s rare that born helpers even need to be asked, they just know yes? Only asking because I know you are such a friend…and you know you have friends who are the same…xoxo

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  12. I usually feel uncomfortable asking for help because I am a ‘helper’. Helpers are strong an independent – they are the ones you turn to when all else fails. This is such an interesting post because you’ve really got me thinking (again) about my role in life and in society in general. I remember when I was young (about 19) and in the hospital. I remember the nurse saying to me that it was rare to get a patient like me because I rarely asked for assistance. At the time I thought, “the nurses have enough to do with ‘sick people’ without having to put up with me asking for things as well.” So to answer your question – no, I don’t ask for help. I think if I ever had the need to I would be in extreme dire straights!

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    • When I had my son and was in the hospital for several days, I remember thinking some of the very same thoughts. I agree, those of us who are strong, independent find it hardest to turn and ask. I know I am guilty of not always trusting that someone else will be able to actually help me, or will really be there when I need them to be. I am glad to stir your thinking, that’s high praise from you my friend!! 🙂

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  13. Great post Bon – I think in part, we equate asking for help with weakness, not fully appreciating that people can be simultaneously strong and weak. Perceptions of being ‘needy’ or fragile further distort the very reality that everyone needs help sometimes. Some people don’t know how to ask – and I’m in this category without question. And then there’s pride – which definitely gets in the way. Contrast this with others who have no difficulty asking for help, frequently taking it to extremes that suggest a level of self-absorption that far exceeds the normal bell curve. I don’t know – but all of these thoughts jumbled around my head as I read this…really thought provoking – and troubling that once again, you are not sleeping!! xxox, m

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    • Thank Mims…I agree with your whole comment – and I especially see what you mean about the self-absorption folks, who push beyond the normal limits without self awareness or perhaps that gracious give and take that makes giving and receiving help what it should be. I slept…just when you were awake 🙂 xoxo me

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