Hello to another Spring monday! The weather is CRAZY today, and my day has been crazy, too. It’s late, but it’s here. Time for Motivation Monday.
Today’s topic is a really hard one for me: when to ask for help. I’m a bit of a stubborn, do it all, perfectionist that has a hard time asking for help. It’s hard for a few reasons:
First, I don’t like asking for help because I fear that it makes me look weak or incapable.
Second, I fear that I’m giving away my power when I bring in someone else on a project or task. I’m a bit of a control freak.
And third, I feel guilty that I’m asking someone else to spend their energy working on something for me. Sound familiar? Then read on…
Learning how and when to ask for help is an ongoing lesson in my life. I’ve just shared why it’s difficult for me to do so, but that doesn’t mean I don’t do it. Remember with me a few of the moments when I did ask for a helping hand and was so glad that I did:
Recently I asked my friend Britney to help me clean and organize my cluttered office and living room area. I was embarrassed to ask her to help me for fear that she’d see old paperwork from 2005 and judge me when I a very real fear of letting it go. It was extremely kind of Britney to help me, but it never would have happened had I not let her into my home and then put my trust in her. I had offers for help from my husband and even another friend, but it took something inside of me and a very special trust in Britney to finally say YES to some help. Am I glad I accepted her help? You bet!
A few weeks ago I had a panic attack on the crowded 6 train in Manhattan. The train was far underground, bursting at the seams with people, very warm, and very stuck. We stayed stuck for about 15 minutes, which in “stuck on a crowded 6 train” time is FOREVER. I’m prone to panic attacks, but with a new yoga practice and a better handle on stress, I went from having two a week to once every two months, to rarely having any at all. Because of that, I did not have my low dose of medicine on hand, or water. I felt the panic rising. I started to take off my jacket, my scarf, I scrambled around in a tiny area looking for a breath of fresh air, wishing that I could get out of the locked doors. If you’ve ever been through a panic attack, you know what I’m talking about here. If you haven’t, please understand that all logic ceases to exist, and though I logically knew there was nothing to be afraid of, and no reason to panic, my body and mind went into survival mode.
Something that elevates my panic attacks is the fear that those around me will think that I’m crazy or overreacting – it’s a fear of being misunderstood. It totally multiplies my condition. I was terrified to reach out and tell someone what was going on, or even ask for a sip of water. But I have been through this before, and I knew what would happen if I didn’t…so I did it. I steered clear of the equally nervous man in front of me gnawing on his fingernails and, with big eyes and a trembling voice, asked the woman seated next to him, “Excuse me, do you have any water?” She hesitated for a second, then said “I do… but it’s mine that I drink out of.” In other words, “Yes, but not for you.” Embarrassed and feeling foolish, I did not tell her why I needed it and simply smiled and said “OK, I totally understand. Thank you.” and went back into fidgety squirrel mode. I tried to take deep breaths, I tried not to cry. Obviously, something was up, so she softly asked me “Are you ok?” and with what seemed like no other option, I admitted to her “I’m just having a little bit of a panic attack. I’m so sorry.” I don’t know what I was apologizing for, but it felt like the right thing to do. Instead of telling me to get over it, or to calm down, she looked me right in the eye and said “I totally get it. I get those sometimes. Would you like to sit down?” In the midst of what felt like a life crisis, she was suddenly a savoir. A seat! YES! I could sit down, and she understood. She got it. She knew I wasn’t crazy! Immediately I answered “Yes! Thank you so much!” And she lovingly stood up, gave me her seat, and asked “would you like someone to talk to?” What she was offering me was really help. She knew I needed it, and she magically offered it to me. As embarrassed and as frantic as I was, I was equally thankful. While we chatted, she cheerfully told me she was on her way to a job interview, and would probably be late. I told her I was so sorry to hear that and I hoped that they understood and she got the job. She brushed off her own worries, smiled, and stayed connected with me while I sat there, trying to keep it together. While this was happening, I realized how helpful and unselfish this person was being… and I didn’t even know her name. So I asked her for it. Vicky, she replied. I thanked Vicky many, many times.
When I finally got off of the train and made the agonizing crawl toward the sweet fresh air of Lexington Avenue, my body relaxed, my adrenaline finally dissipated, and I wept uncontrollably for the entire walk to work. I finally knew I was OK and my body reacted with a sweet, tearful release. In order to not look like a crazy person (again, still worried about this) walking down the street with tears streaming down my face, I called my husband. I just needed someone to be on the phone with me. When he didn’t pick up, I left a message that must have sounded completely ridiculous. It went something like this: “HELLO ::: sobbing ::: I just want you :::: sobbing ::: to know that ::: sobbing ::: I’m ok :: giant breath :: I’m just having a ::: sobbing ::: physical reaction to my ::: sobbing ::: panic attack I had ::: sobbing ::: on the train.” Realizing that this could only go on for a few blocks, I called up Britney again. Thank God she could take my call and again, didn’t judge me when I told her what had happened and how I just needed someone on the phone with me until I got to work. Britney saves the day, once again!
I don’t want to know what would have happened had I not reached out to Vicky for help. I also don’t want to know what would have happened had she not been kind enough to help me. Luckily, I don’t have to. I reached out for help and I got it.
Asking for help is not easy. I very much understand this. But in most cases, it’s worth the risk.
I came across a great article about this very topic by Mike Robbins in The Huffington Post. Here is a portion of that article:
Make Genuine Requests, without Attachment. A “genuine” request can be accepted or declined, without any consequence. In other words, if we get really upset when someone says “no” to us, not only were we attached to the outcome, it probably wasn’t a real request to begin with (it was a demand). When we ask for what we want, without being attached to the response, we have more freedom to ask and ultimately our chances of getting what we want are greatly increased.
Be Easy To Support.
There are some specific things we can do to make it easier to support us. Such as:
- Be open to the coaching and feedback of others
- Thank people for their support
- Let people do things to support us in their own unique way instead of micro-managing them (this one is often tough for me)
- Allow people’s support when it is offered
Give Your Support to Others Generously.
When we put our attention on supporting other people, the universe has a way of returning the favor. It may or may not always come back to us from the people we help specifically, and that’s OK. We want to do our best not to “keep score,” as many of us often do, but instead to look for opportunities to genuinely help those around us. When we do this, we remind ourselves of the power of support and we experience it as the true “win-win” it is.
Today’s Motivation Monday topic was really hard for me to share, but I’m glad I did. I’ve been thinking about this topic quite a bit, and I’ve already put my own advice into action. While I’m taking Marie Forleo’s B-School course, I’ve met with some other entreperuers and asked for their advice, guidance, and opinions. It’s very against my nature to do so, but the results of my endeavors have been tremendous! I’m learning, I’m connecting, and I’m even able to help others. And all from asking: can you help me?
Can you think of an example in your life where you were too scared or too stubborn to ask for help? What would have been the worst thing that could have happened if you had asked for help? Maybe that you’d be embarrassed, or look foolish? What if you asking for help would actually get the results you craved and made you look like a go-getter? What is driving your request for help? Find someplace in your life where you can genuinely request someone’s help, or take it where it was offered. And don’t forget to look for opportunities where you can help someone else, too!