How did you learn how to accept help?
September 27, 2023 12:15 PM   Subscribe

I need to practice accepting help from the caring people in my life. The Miss Independent schtick needs to stop, and I want to be gracious and allow them to help me when they offer. In the past I may have felt I had something to prove, but I've realized I can't do life completely on my own. How did you learn to accept help that's being offered to you? How did you remind yourself to try again when people let you down?
posted by Juniper Toast to Human Relations (11 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
One single meme was a powerful factor in changing my mind and my habits. I know how stupid it sounds but ... sign of the times, eh? It was a random picture of a tree on a mountain or something? with words underneath that said:

Resist the urge to apologize for imposing on someone. Practice thanking people for their help and understanding instead.

I've seen the same sentiment worded a number of different ways since, sometimes it's aimed at helping women stop apologizing too much, sometimes it's about gratitude, whatever. But it has really stuck with me because it helped me shift my mindset.

I didn't want to ask for help because I was afraid of imposing, of being an inconvenience. I think I was in the habit of imagining that I would feel anxious and apologetic and even sort of humiliated when I received the help, and I never wanted to risk feeling that way. This meme helped reframe that - instead of anticipating that feeling of anxiety and humiliation, I could choose to anticipate the joyful feeling I get when I am expressing to others how much I appreciate them. Boom, now I ask for bloody help all the bloody time, and cheerfully too! And then I cook and bake and make art for my helpers to say thanks! It has quintupled the joy in my life.

If your issue is that you have something to prove, can you hack that bad habit in your brain by thinking of asking for help as, "I'll prove I'm not a stuck up loner asshole with a chip on my shoulder, ha, they think I'm too proud well I'll show them I can be vulnerable af"? Or something like that? Whatever works for you!
posted by MiraK at 12:36 PM on September 27 [12 favorites]

Hi, terrible at asking for help over here too but there is one thing that's made it a little easier for me to ask for and accept the help I need:

My resting state is service and I get off on being helpful. I have had to realize that people want to reciprocate. Helping makes people feel good. If I allow someone the opportunity to help me they might appreciate it. It's unfair to myself and to the people I love when I put on my martyr costume and act like no one wants to help me out. I'm guessing you're also a helper, helpful people sometimes have a hard time helping ourselves.

So yeah the main thing that helps me to get help is to frame it as me doing a helpful thing for the people I am asking for help. I'm guessing that the reason I like to think about the situation that way is:

For me, asking for help means admitting you are vulnerable. Working on allowing myself to be vulnerable with people is a whole scene but when I can do it then asking for help and possibly being let down feels so much less dangerous.
posted by RobinofFrocksley at 12:39 PM on September 27 [8 favorites]

For me, it was hitting rock bottom. I absolutely could not continue as I was, so I threw myself to the wind -- and when the wind didn't catch me, I asked for help. And people were glad to help me. Some were even grateful to have the opportunity to help. I don't ever want to be in that state again, so now I ask for help early, regularly and often, and receive it gratefully when it is offered.

I don't recommend my method, but it did work.
posted by OrangeDisk at 1:26 PM on September 27 [1 favorite]

Re: feeling let down, take care to:

1. Make your requests specific and explicit. Don't say, "This is a difficult time for me" and expect people to provide support. Don't even say, "I need your support during this difficult time," and expect people to figure out how to support you. Instead say "I need some company during this difficult time, can we do a weekly coffee date or zoom call?" Even if the answer to your specific request is "No but I can do ___ instead," the very fact that the arrangement is very explicit for both sides is going to minimize the chances of you either being or feeling let down.

2. Quit relying on people who do let you down and move on to someone else for help. Some of us want to be kind and forgiving, and we think that means we need to "give people another chance". But actually, true kindness and forgiveness lies in accepting our friends for who they are. Stop expecting them to magically turn into reliable, non-flaky people. You can still like them and they will always be your best pub crawl buddy or whatever. You'll just ask someone else the next time you need help, instead of pinning your hopes on the person who has shown you they can't/won't do that for you.
posted by MiraK at 1:48 PM on September 27 [5 favorites]

I think of these lines from Andrea Cohen's poem, Lit:

"Everyone can’t
be a lamplighter.

Someone must
be the lamp..."

It is okay to be a lamp sometimes. Accepting help doesn't make you weak or shameful; it affirms that you are part of a larger human reciprocity (and one that's bigger than the occasional letdown).
posted by MonkeyToes at 1:59 PM on September 27 [11 favorites]

People feel good helping. I'm in a crazy chaotic family and work situation at the moment but still feel great about dropping off a homecooked entree, salad and dessert mealtrain meal for a family in my community who needed it.
So I try to remember I'm giving other people the opportunity to help and feel good. It's hard, but I do it. Because I do need help sometimes and it's not actually an amazing trait to act like you never need anyone.
posted by atomicstone at 2:10 PM on September 27 [1 favorite]

The book Platonic: How the Science of Attachment Can Help You Make-and Keep-Friends is excellent and speaks to this issue. I really recommend reading/listening to it, as it talks about vulnerability and helping others and receiving help from them in friendships, and it puts it in a larger context of why this is important and valuable.
posted by bluedaisy at 3:14 PM on September 27 [2 favorites]

As someone who as an adult has been forced/requested to move by work, and now as a married parent, the best way to become a part of a new to you community is to provide help AND REQUEST IT.
posted by atomicstone at 3:27 PM on September 27 [5 favorites]

I was actually cornered in several abusive situations that relied on me not asking for help. Asking for help meant I could get out. Basically I realized that the idea that not asking for help was going to save me or anyone trouble is patently not true and abuser logic, almost killed me multiple times, and that in reality, people who love you will be mad as hell because you are not asking for help. Pay attention to who wants to help you, and that it feels good to ask for help. Also trust them to say no as well, and to give grace when they do say no. People saying no is a gift, because you can move on and find people who will say yes to you, with love and full consent.
posted by yueliang at 7:20 PM on September 27 [3 favorites]

Well, I like helping people, and at some point a boyfriend (who I would not allow to buy me even a cup of coffee) was like "look, when you insist on only ever treating and never accepting anything, it's insulting! You like to do nice things for people, why can't other people like to do nice things for you?"

So that really helped reframe it, that assuming no one will help me and I have to do everything myself is really mean to assume about other people.
posted by Lady Li at 11:36 PM on September 27 [3 favorites]

When you allow people to help you, you are giving them the opportunity to perform a mitzvah. Someone pointed that out to me and it was very helpful in allowing myself to ask for help.
posted by Tamanna at 10:17 PM on September 29 [2 favorites]

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