The Courage to Ask for Help
October 23, 2017
by Kim Childs, CPPC
Last month, I noticed my coaching client scribbling earnestly during our session, as we were discussing the difference between willpower (“I want to ___”) and way power (“I may need help, training, instruction and a plan to ___”).
So what was my client writing? “Asking for help is self-care.”
For far too many years, I was self-reliant to a fault—trying to assume control, figure things out by myself and hide my needs and insecurities from people as best I could. I feared being vulnerable, being disappointed, appearing stupid, burdening people with my needs or arousing their criticism and condemnation. I acted as if I had it all together, and sometimes it appeared that I did…on the outside.
It took a crisis to show me that “I’ll do it all myself” is a lonely and ineffective way to live.
I was 34 years old and delivering a newscast in my former public radio job when a panic attack – live, on the air – rocked my world and dismantled my facade of control. It also sent me on the journey of recovery that ultimately launched my career as a coach, teacher, and writer of personal transformation.
The panic attack left me with no choice but to ask for help. I enlisted a variety of traditional and alternative healers and landed firmly in psychotherapy, 12-step groups, and countless personal growth workshops to address old wounds. Emotional and psychological healing became my occupation, even as I kept reporting the news. About a year later I left my job and moved into a yoga center, where the seeds of my current career were planted and nourished.
It took a village to get me through those years, during which time I learned a lot about the courage of vulnerability, authenticity, and opening up to receive. I’m grateful to each and every helper on my journey, which will always be a work in progress.
Another thing I’ve had to wrap my mind around is that so many people want to help, and they may even feel honored when we ask. Last week, I was a hot mess over a family issue (and a badly timed technological problem…but is there ever a good time for that?) and I reached out to a dear friend. She stopped what she was doing to listen, and help. I thanked her profusely the next day, still wrestling with old feelings of guilt for “bothering” someone.
Her reply, so beautiful and surprising, was, “Thank you for being in my life.”
Last year I decided to take a dream trip to South Africa with my chorus. Struggling financially in the wake of a divorce, I needed help paying for it. I applied for a scholarship and received a generous one from the chorus. Following the lead of some fellow singers, I launched a fundraising campaign for the rest of the expenses and received even more than I’d asked for. It was a miraculous and humbling experience that left me full of gratitude and marveling at the generosity of people.
We often ask for help when we’re on our knees, literally or metaphorically. It’s typically what brings clients into my office, when the pain of staying stuck or unhappy has become too much to bear. The same client I mentioned above remarked during our initial consultation that, “I used to think life coaches were only for corporate executives, and then I read a book that said anyone can benefit from working with a coach, so here I am.”
Needless to say, I was thrilled about that book, and my client’s breakthrough.
If asking for help is a skill you’d like to learn and strengthen, I recommend starting with small requests as you work your way up to bigger ones. Remember that most people like to help because it feels good, and takes us out of our own problems. Recall all the times and ways you’ve gotten a boost from being helpful, and give others that same opportunity.
I also recommend doing it before a crisis hits, but we don’t always have control over that.
None of us can do this life on our own. Asking for help is brave, smart, productive, and a sign of strength. And sometimes it can lead to miracles.
Kim Childs, CPPC, is a Certified Life and Career Coach specializing in Positive Psychology, Creativity, and Midlife Transitions. Click here to learn more and schedule an initial consultation.