The Burden of Self-Reliance

Asking for help isn’t always as easy as we think.  

Some of us willingly put our hand up for help and subscribe easily to the saying “many hands make light work”. Others might persevere for a while longer on their own before seeking reinforcement. We seem more likely to respond to requests for help when it is sought happily, out of incapability or couched as an invitation to join in a shared activity.

I have observed that the point at which my children feel ready to ask for assistance varies. For my self-reliant child, seeking assistance appears to be tied to a sense of failure, self worth or pure embarrassment. And so, she would sometimes wait until she is at a point of complete frustration, exploding with anger and shattered by self disappointment, these words are expressed desperately “Can somebody just HELP me?!” .

I notice during such an outburst, many of us seem less willing to assist. Mostly, we start scattering like ants spritzed by bug spray, afraid to be hit by more shrapnel. Our spirits appear unable to deal with the surge of energy; we prefer to leave her to combust alone. She starts spinning into a spiral of rage and annoyance.

During quieter moments, I have encouraged her to consider her own perspective towards the concept of seeking assistance. I explain that putting your hand up for help is not an admission of defeat. It may be purely functional, that of physical ability (not being able to reach) or even simple logistics. Give others an opportunity to be in your life as you are in theirs, open yourself up to greater resource. We exist together as a family, a community and a team. We are here to support each other’s success and we can achieve so much more collectively than alone. Be grateful for a chance to share your load.

I am optimistic for her as she grows in self-awareness. We celebrate the times where she walks up to me calmly and says “Hey Mom, can I please get your help?”. I jump up quickly and stand deliberately at attention, ready to be deployed “Yes ! What can I help you with ?” and she smiles wryly at me, conscious that she’s making progress with another one of mom’s self-improvement projects.

“Be strong enough to stand alone, smart enough to know when you need help, and brave enough to ask for it.” Zaid K. Abdelnour