How to Ask for and Accept Help: A Beginner’s Guide

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Asking for help is not one of my strengths—I will be the first to admit it. I am even worse at accepting help. I am self-reliant to a fault and tend to overextend myself at home and work, like many moms I know. Is the car full of groceries? I will load up all grocery bags by myself, the handles digging into my arm with the weight, before letting someone else bring in a few. When someone asks, “Do you need a hand?” without letting them finish their sentence, I usually exclaim something along the lines of, “No, I’m all set. Thank you though!” or “Thanks, but I’m good!” Even when I am not.

When faced with a challenge or task, my instinct is to make a list and identify what I need to do to address it to get it done—by myself. I do not know exactly why I struggle with asking for or accepting help from others. It is likely a combination of nature and nurture. A mix of my personality and learned behaviors (like perfectionism and people-pleasing to name some prime examples).

Since becoming a mom, I have struggled quite a bit with accepting help. My daughter was born right at the start of the pandemic. So from the start, our family felt isolated from others in an unexpected and unprecedented way. We had the support of close family, but our relationship to the world around us felt disconnected. We were not able, at least at the time my daughter was born and shortly thereafter, to rely on and grow a village in the way that we had envisioned.

This exacerbated my tendency to try to take on everything myself. By the time my son was born, about two years into the pandemic, the world had opened up again for the most part, but this tendency towards self-reliance persisted. I have had to make a conscious effort to accept help from others and to ask for help when I need it. It is hard, and I often feel guilty when I cannot get everything done myself. Still, I am trying to recondition my thinking and self-talk on this issue.

It is definitely still a work in progress, but there are a few takeaways for me on how to ask for and accept help:

Start small.

Look at your to-do list and identify small tasks that do not take much time or effort to complete. This will lighten the load if you no longer have them on your plate. For example, if someone asks if you need anything at the store do not just shrug them off and say you can do it yourself. Take them up on their kindness.

Seek out support.

Being part of a community can have a significant impact on your and your family’s well-being. This can help you create a built-in network of people who want to see you succeed and who are more than willing to lend a hand to get you there.

Give yourself grace.

This is hard. Remind yourself every day that you are doing the best you can for your family and yourself. If you feel overwhelmed, and overworked, remember that you do not have to do it all alone.

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