Asking For Help Is A Strength, Not A Weakness

 

I'm here to announce that I have a problem. And I'm not talking about my split ends, chewed fingernails, or my obsession with cheap bottles of wine. I'm talking about a real issue I've been dealing with probably forever that I've only just recently realized was actually holding me back, and probably causing me more stress than necessary (though, when you're in a constant state of mild anxiety-induced stress who even notices, right?).

I'm talking about asking for help. I am the worst at asking for help and the queen of proclaiming "I got this". I wear that phrase like a badge of honor, holding myself upright by it and planting my flag in its safe and familiar soil. In all honesty, that phrase has gotten me through the really tough days, the days I want to quit trying. The days that I’m too overwhelmed, too scared, too tired and beaten down. "I got this" is my mantra that keeps me going.

It's also one of my biggest weaknesses.

Carpet in the bedroom to rip up? I can do that. Large client at work need managing? I'm your girl. Mountain to climb on the other side of the country? I don't need you, I can do this by myself. That's me; independent, strong-willed, type-A, and drowning. Drowning because I, up until very recently, have had a really hard time letting go of control (ahem, still struggling). Until very recently, I haven’t been able to admit to myself that I was letting the ideas of how others might perceive me get in the way of my growth. And up until very recently, I haven’t felt vulnerable enough to share them.
 

Asking for help, in my mind, equates to:

  1. I’m being a burden to them

  2. They think this is a stupid question

  3. I’m too weak to do this on my own

  4. They trusted me with this and now I’m failing them

  5. They won’t trust me in the future if I can’t figure this out

  6. They’re already stressed/overwhelmed, I can’t add to it

  7. They’ll think I can’t do my job right

  8. I’ve already asked this question, if I ask again it’ll be annoying

  9. I want to be seen as a leader and leaders do things on their own

  10. I should be able to figure it out


All. Lies.

I’ve realized that the problem with these thoughts, beyond the fact that they’re downright toxic to my mental health, is that by me being too scared to ask for help when it’s necessary because I fear any of the things listed above, I'm doing more harm than good for all parties involved. I’m living in my comfort zone, the space in which notoriously nothing grows. I’m not getting new perspectives or ideas, nor am I being very productive with my time and resources. Do I want my hand held every step of the way? No. But I understand now that there are moments that I do need assistance, guidance, direction, moral support, emotional support, etc. because, let’s face it, I’ve not lived enough life yet to do all of it alone, at least not well.

I’m learning to be at peace with that.

We don’t accomplish anything in this world alone … and whatever happens is the result of the whole tapestry of one’s life and all the weavings of individual threads from one to another that creates something.
— –Sandra Day O’Connor

I’ve always told myself that I’m brave, strong, capable, and able to do anything I set my mind to. To be clear, I still absolutely believe those things. But I’ve forgotten, so selfishly, that I have a lot of people to thank for helping me remember these things on the bad days, and many more people to thank for helping to guide me through the really tough problems, whether they knew they were helping or not. I know with absolute certainty that these people are on my side and ready to draw their swords at a moment’s notice, and I, them. What a beautiful feeling of security.

It's taken quite a bit of self-reflection, several professional performance reviews, and a few fall-flat-on-my-face moments lately to make me see this problem more clearly than ever before. But as you can guess, as with any problem that needs solved, I got this (now with a little help).

When Was The Last Time You Asked For Help?

Things I Learned Growing Up On A Farm

 

When I was 10 my parents moved us from the suburbs of Columbus to Newark, Ohio, to a small stone house built upon itself over generations and nestled in a lush valley. In Columbus, we'd already kept a thriving garden, chickens, ducks, and even turkeys in our tiny fenced-in backyard, but all of a sudden we had 6 acres of wilderness to roam, play, and grow, and grow we did. 

I remember Dad telling us to not wear shoes in the tall grass so that our feet would toughen up, and I remember our first garden being plowed through the acres of unused land. I learned it was really important to make friends with the neighbors, especially the ones who had proper farm machinery, and I learned why you have to alternate corn and soybeans in fields. 

I remember us bringing home a little orange kitten that was for sale up at the corner store, and I remember when that kitten got eaten by a possum. There was a great deal of death on the farm, especially living on a busy, high-speed road, but there was even more life. There were chicks, calves, puppies, and kittens, nearly all of which we witnessed entering the world and leaving it. I learned how to properly kill, clean, and gut a chicken, and how to cook one.

I remember thinking the woods were magical, and I remember following the deer paths until I was thoroughly lost. I learned how to find my way home every time, and I learned who's property to not explore through. I learned that deer are territorial, fawns will hide in the underbrush, and vines are really fun to swing on. Dad built us a fort in the woods to hide in, and I learned boredom breeds imagination. 

I remember spending summers in the creek, and learning how to catch crawdads with my bare hands. My brother and I learned to build a shelter made of branches and leaves, and how to start a fire to cook said crawdads on (not good for eating). I learned that the creek bank changes with the seasons, as do some of the creatures who inhabit it. Snapping turtles are no joke (good for eating), and it was a good time to fish after a solid rain.

I remember Mom and Dad buying me a horse for Christmas when I was 14, and I remember wishing I could ride her bareback through the meadows like a country princess like I'd imagined I could be. I learned that dream was unrealistic, horses are expensive, and they take a lot more work and care than I was prepared for (despite the countless books I read). I also learned that if you offer a free horse on Craigslist, you'll make a lot of friends. 

I remember incredibly hot, humid, non-air-conditioned summers, and learned that before sunrise and after sunset were the best times to get work done. The creek was the only place to find relief, and I learned that rain, no matter the season, was a good thing. In winter, I learned that ice could knock out power but it was really fun to skate on.

I remember taking produce to the local Farmer's Market early every Saturday morning during the summer and fall, and how excited I was to get my cut from the daily earnings. I learned how to accurately count back money, talk to adults properly, and make a damn good salsa. 

I remember wanting to leave home really, really badly, and that the city lights seemed more enchanting than the lightning bugs on summer nights. I've taken for granted the things I learned and experienced growing up on that little farm, and how those lessons shaped the adult I am today. I've learned to equally love walking through the woods as much as I do the sidewalks of a city, but more importantly, I've learned to make my own way, brush the dirt off if I fall down, and always be home for Sunday dinner.