Do you ask for what you need?

July 29, 2016

I never used to ask for help.  

I have been independent from a young age. Being self-sufficient, capable, getting things done well and on time while taking care of a whole house (cooking, cleaning, laundry) after my mother died resulted in my father's approval. 

Having your only parent's approval meant safety and security; I also thought that meant I was loved and valued.

If I did all that work without asking for his help, even better, as far as he was concerned. And me, too: Asking for help was usually met with this "tsk" sound from him, and all the approval and knowing I was okay went away in that instant.  

I hated that sound.  

As soon as I would hear it, feelings of shame, unworthiness, incapability, that something was wrong with me hit like a strong gust of wind, knocking the breath out of me.

He would help me gruffly, and would sigh and complain, and then he wouldn't talk to me or look at me for a while. I felt scared and insecure.

Rather than risk potentially feeling those things and experiencing his disapproval, I learned to figure things out and get things done on my own. If I messed up or made mistakes, I would correct them before he got home (which was at 5:35, and in which I had to have the chores done, house tidy, dinner on the table by 5:45, and cleaned up and put away by 6:15).  

I also learned not to need anything from him emotionally because he didn't know what to do when I did. It made him anxious, and he did not like feeling that way. My hunch now is that he felt shame, incapable, insecure and scared.  


All of this transferred over into the rest of my life: To feel safe and get the approval of others, it worked to be capable, self-sufficient, get things done well and right.

And, that also meant never asking for help, for it was too big a risk.  

My dad would 'go away' for a while to show his disapproval, but he never actually left. Other people? Well, not only could they disapprove of me, they could potentially reject me all together.

And leave. Really leave.  Forever.

The thought of that was like having all the wind taken out of my sails with no oars or motor available. Feeling insecure and scared quickly followed.

I've learned a lot since then about it being okay to make mistakes and to fail. Those are both illusions: "Mistakes" and "failures" are simply feedback, vital information to help and guide us, and that we actually grow and learn, get places and reach dreams because we're making mistakes and experiencing failure.  

I've also learned the power of the willingness to ask for help. Here on my blog I've written a lot about vulnerability and courage, and how I was able to turn my life and health around by finally seeking and accepting help.  

I slowly learned over time to ask for what I need more regularly. It's still sometimes uncomfortable: I do it anyway because I have found people want to help.  

I had a powerful experience with this just yesterday.  

I was tired from not sleeping well. It's a stressful time at work. And then Facebook's 'memories' feature presented me with an image from three years ago that was quite startling as out of nowhere I was reminded of how unhealthy and unhappy I was at that time. I have come such a long way in that time in every area of my life, yet it brought up old grief and sadness I hadn't been prepared for.  

It was like stale, heavy, dark air was suddenly piped in and there was no window to open so air and light could come in to take it away.   

What to do? I asked myself a question I often pose to my clients, which I was asked a while back by a dear coach (thank you, Lauren Russo):

What do I want, and what do I need?

I wanted and needed to acknowledge and then dissipate the reasons for the sadness. I wanted and needed energy to get through my long day ahead. I wanted not to feel alone.

Okay, so, again what to do?

I reached out, and asked for help and support on Facebook.  

I posted that I was feeling sad, and "if you would please send loving and uplifting energy my way, I would greatly appreciate it."   

I was not prepared for the outpouring of support that came almost immediately and went on all day. It was a sweet gust of wind that knocked me over onto a gentle, kind, beautiful and comforting blanket of flowers.

People I've known for years. People I haven't seen in years. People I've known a short time. People I've never met in person. People from all over the country. Friends, family, colleagues, mentors, clients, friends of friends... 

It made me weep with gratitude. It was if a magical window appeared, and with every comment and heart emoticon it opened wider and wider letting a lovely breeze come in to blow out the stale sadness. Light came through and found its way into my heart. My energy returned.  

Ask for what you need. People want to help.  

Be willing to be vulnerable, and you just might find yourself on a lovely blanket of care and comfort and a soothing, loving breeze all around you right when you need it, too.


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