A few months ago, I had a really bad cold (not COVID!). In the midst of feeling unwell, I had a major aha moment. I find it very difficult to ask for help at times, even when I badly need it.
I rarely get sick, but this time, it hit me hard. I couldn’t get out of bed, I felt really weak, and doing even simple things was tough. Lots of my friends reached out to offer their help but I said no. Other than accepting my partner Santosh’s care, I couldn’t bring myself to say yes to their support.
I’ve now reflected on some of the reasons why I turned them down when, in truth, I really could have used their TLC! It made me think about how many of us — particularly women — struggle with accepting help when it’s offered, let alone when we could be asking for it outright.
Growing up as a feminist, I absorbed the idea that to be a strong, independent woman I should handle everything on my own, and that being vulnerable and asking for help is a sign of weakness. Instead, I was socialized to believe that I should focus on offering my help to others.
I know now this messaging is both misguided and misogynistic, and that internalizing gender bias hurts me personally and professionally. We all need love and support from others. In fact, it’s essential for navigating this difficult journey called life. When we deny others’ love and care, it directly impacts our well-being and can hold us back from thriving.
But I want to go even deeper here and vulnerably share another reason I’m uncomfortable with asking for and receiving help. While growing up, I came to believe that I’m not worthy of others’ care. I know I’m not alone with this. Many of us hold this hurtful belief because of the conditional love that came our way both in our childhood and adulthood. Feeling unlovable can make it really hard to accept others’ care.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot since being sick, and I’ve also been working on changing how I respond when someone offers their help. And there are three things I’ve been doing that I want to share with you:
We need to know what’s getting in our way so that we can address the barriers that are preventing us from thriving. To figure out what’s at the root of your tendency to turn down others’ help, try engaging in deep self-reflection work. Here are a few tools to make this happen.
So many of us are wired to automatically say “no thanks” when someone asks if they can help us. When you notice that you’re about to say these words, take a pause, engage in self-coaching, and say yes instead.
I recently had some of my friends over for a big dinner. Many of them asked if there was anything they could do to help. And while the old Ritu would’ve said no, this time I said yes. I asked them all to bring either an appetizer or a dessert. The result was not only less work for me but also some kick-ass appetizers and delish desserts. It was a powerful affirmation of why doing our work to live better matters.
And while I’m talking about living better, I want to underscore that the most powerful healing work we can do to open up our hearts to others’ care is to engage in self-love. When we feel lovable, it unlocks our sense of worthiness. And when we feel worthy, we openly receive others’ love and support.
So the next time you feel yourself shying away from asking for or receiving help, tell yourself: I am worthy of love. And then ask yourself: what simple gesture of help could I allow into my life as a first step?
I’m an award-winning life coach, empowerment speaker, author, and inclusion expert dedicated to helping you live your best life.
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