It requires more courage to ask for help than it does to “go it alone.” Society teaches us that we should be strong and independent and we should persevere. It also teaches us that showing any sign of weakness is detrimental and the worst possible thing we can do. We are taught that asking for help is a sign of weakness, where in truth it is the opposite: it is an act of courage.
I grew up believing I had to be independent, to have all the answers and appear as though I had my life together. While I definitely upheld that image on the outside the best I could, my inside world was full of fear, negative self-talk thoughts, and a lot of pain and suffering. I isolated myself and convinced myself that no one would understand or care about how I was feeling. My own self-judgment was extreme and it caused a lot of my own suffering. I felt as though I just had to suck it up and figure things out myself. All the while that I yearned for deep connection, love, and nurturing attention, I was also terrified of it.
Many people judge asking for help as a sign of vulnerability and weakness. The opposite is actually true. My mentor and motivational speaker Les Brown always told me, “Ask for help. Not because you are weak but because you want to remain strong.” Vulnerability is a sign of strength and asking for help shows true courage. We are not meant to do this all alone. It is our tendency to isolate ourselves that creates our deepest pain and continued suffering. Not asking for help isolates and separates us from others. Asking for help connects us.
Asking for help is a gift. It not only empowers us, but it is also an opportunity for others to extend love. Most people love helping others. It is also a gift to fully receive what is given. Imagine giving someone a gift and they place it on the table and refuse to open it. How would that feel? Every time you are not willing to receive you are placing your gift on the table and refusing to open it.
I have a fresh story to share that relates exactly to this concept. About a month ago, I received an email from a yoga instructor asking if I offer any discounts on my Fertility Yoga Teacher Training online course. I tuned in to my heart and felt a clear yes to offer her a $100 discount. I had the thought “what a generous gift” and sent her an email with the news. She met it with gratitude and accepted my offer. I emailed her a PayPal invoice with the discounted price.
A month passed and I remembered that she hadn’t paid the invoice to register. As I was writing this chapter, I took a break and checked my email, because I had sent her a reminder email about the invoice just the day before, asking her to let me know either way so I could cancel the invoice if she is no longer interested. Part of me expected she had forgotten and just needed a reminder. When I received her email saying she would like to cancel, for now, I was surprised.
The very first thought I heard in my mind was, “What? You are not going to take advantage of the discount?” That thought was quickly followed by, “Well, I won’t be offering the discount again. This was her only chance so she missed out.” I could feel some tension building in the center of my chest and my ego-mind was ready to pounce and take me into a wormhole of judgment. I knew I had a choice to either let my thoughts continue or to place my attention inward and feel the emotions beneath those thoughts.
As I tuned into my chest, I felt a wave of disappointment followed by a heavy sadness in my heart. I had extended a gift and she had refused to open it. She wasn’t willing to receive it. The heaviness grew as I felt the density of all the times I have extended a gift that wasn’t received or wasn’t received in the way I intended. For many years, I had spent time and energy on helping others who weren’t willing to help themselves—all those people I had wanted to help but couldn’t. I continue to have tears as I am typing. The grief continues to wash up and out.
All along I thought I was giving her a gift but it turns out she was actually extending a gift to me. Without this interaction, I wouldn’t have looked within and felt the collection of past hurt and grief from the gifts I have extended that were never received. I wanted to save the world as a child so there were many. Then suddenly, I felt a wave of grief from all the gifts that I myself have refused to open and receive with my whole heart. All my unopened gifts, the gifts I denied myself because I felt unworthy and undeserving.
Curiously, I didn’t feel guided to respond to her email, but I did send a blessing from my heart to hers. I was willing to receive her gift: the gift of healing, the gift of awareness, the gift of surrender, and the gift of non-attachment. This one email exchange was full of so much potential and I was willing to open it fully and receive it all.
I knew it took courage for her to initially ask for help in the way of a discount, but I have come to recognize that it takes just as much courage, if not more, to receive the help when it is extended. Whether it is in response to us asking for help or someone offering their help out of the blue, it takes courage to say yes and be open to receiving. We may be able to conjure up the courage to finally ask for help, but if we aren’t open to receiving it when it arrives, it remains an unopened gift.
The real joy and pleasure in giving come from knowing the gift you are extending is being received. I often say giving is receiving, and receiving is giving. There is no difference because when you give you receive and when you receive you give. There is always an exchange going both ways. Even when you give a gift anonymously, you receive the gift of knowing you made a difference in someone else’s life. Even when the gift is not received and opened, there is still a gift you can receive. As I share in this story, the gift we receive back can often be disguised as an opportunity to heal our leftovers and our past hurts.
Asking for help is an act of courage and so is being open to receiving. For many, giving comes at a sacrifice to self, because there is an imbalance between giving to others and giving to self. Many of us find it easy to give but much harder to receive. We often judge ourselves as unworthy, undeserving, and/or not important; we are programmed to believe that receiving is being selfish.
For most people, our hearts are wide open to giving but closed to receiving. How do we change that? We pay attention to the conversation in our heads so that we can challenge our programmed thoughts and the judgments that rise up. We can make a choice to be more open to receiving throughout the day. If someone compliments you, soften your heart and say “thank you.” If someone holds a door open for you, receive the gift of a kind gesture with a simple “thank you.” Don’t just say the words, feel the gratitude in your heart, and let it warm you from the inside. If someone smiles at you, let it land in your heart as you smile back. If someone gives you a hug, hug them back with a soft open heart. It sounds easy, but it will not be easy in the beginning. As you practice, it will become more familiar and eventually more natural.
We are each worthy of love. We each deserve to receive the gifts that life holds for us. We each matter. Every one of us plays an essential role in this world. Yes, every single one of us. We each have a unique gift in our hearts to extend. When we open our hearts to receive, we are giving a gift to all of humanity.
Maya Angelou wrote, “You can’t give from an empty cup.” I like to teach “We can’t give from an empty heart.” One of the principles I teach in my book Heart Led Living ~ When Hard Work Becomes Heart Work is “Fill Your Heart First.”
When we ask for help, we have a choice to open our hearts to receive love from others. It is a choice to fill our hearts. The key is to fill our hearts enough that we can give from the overflow and never experience the feeling of depletion or self-sacrifice. We are no help to anyone when we feel empty and depleted. Asking for help allows us to sustain our own energy and at the same time creates a connection with others.
Yes, it takes courage. Yes, it may feel unnatural but only at first. I assure you it is the most natural thing once you get past the old programming in your mind. Go ahead—ask for help. All it takes is twenty seconds of courage. Take a deep breath, gather your courage, and take the leap.
Stay tuned next week for chapter 10 ~ What Image Are You Upholding?
***This is an excerpt from Sue Dumais’ book “Stand UP Stand OUT Stand STRONG ~ A 30 Day Guide to Navigate Life When the SHIFT Hits the Fan” (Printed 2018)
Published on atfortyfive.com with permission from © Sue Dumais
Read more articles from Sue Dumais
If you’ve enjoyed this article share it. If you have thoughts on the content leave a comment below. Do you have expertise, knowledge, or a life experience to share? Visit the Contributor tab for more information.