On Her Own

You are allowed to ask for help

For those of us who have had to or are making it on our own, we’re used to having to dig in and get things done by ourselves. We might not like it, but there’s often no other choice. There’s nobody to rely on, so for better or worse, we figure out how to handle everything alone. At some point, it may become a habit, even a point of pride. I’d like to suggest, though that it’s not always the best way, that sometimes we’re better off letting – or hiring – someone else help or all the way do a thing for us, especially if it’s something we don’t yet know how to do. While this can apply to all sorts of matters, I’m thinking today of mundane ones like figuring out a home maintenance issue, perhaps something like fixing that toilet that won’t stop running.

Yes, it’s worthy and worthwhile to try to figure it out yourself first. You may discover, much to your surprise, that you are capable. We do, after all, live in the Information Age, where tutorials for just about everything are available at our fingertips. A few videos, an article or book, and some common sense and determination can get us an awful long way towards figuring out even the most complicated problems. A little bit of research and effort might also reveal that what needs to be done is actually relatively quick or simple. Not only might you feel silly if you found that out after having someone else do it for you, you might feel like you could or should have saved the money and time you invested into getting help. That may be true, but then again…

Sometimes, it’s faster and better to shortcut finding the solution to a problem by asking for help. Whether it’s asking for advice about how to do the thing or asking for direct assistance, you may save significant time from trying to figure it out entirely by yourself. Research can lead you down rabbit holes or point you to incorrect or incomplete information, more so when you aren’t even sure where to start looking. Doing it yourself can be effective, but terribly inefficient when you don’t know the tricks of the trade. Or you might get it done poorly because you were muddling your way through without the benefit of experience and expertise. Instead of stubbornly scratching away at the task, you could find someone who knows what they are doing to, at the very least, point you in the right direction. It might cost a few dollars or a painful swallowing of your pride, but you’ll be done sooner, and perhaps more cheaply or with superior results, if you pay up front for assistance.

Not trying to do everything yourself also leaves you with more time and energy to focus on the parts of life that are most important to you. There are trade-offs, of course, but you can’t get back the time you spend in one area and spend it somewhere else. And while energy and money are renewable resources, they take time to recover. Do you want to spend them on a task that is difficult, boring, or full of hassle and annoyance, or do you want to spend them on the things that need your personal touch or that you enjoy? You may not be able to choose because the cash isn’t there or you can’t seem to find the right person to help, that’s true. We don’t always have the luxury of being able to beg or buy aid, which is how we got here in the first place. However, it may be more possible than we think if we’re willing to ask and if we’re willing to do a little hunting. That can take its own effort, but it can still be less than trying to do it all by ourselves, which means we have more to devote to those other things we’d rather or must be doing.

It’s also worth remembering that asking for help once doesn’t mean you’re stuck asking for help next time, or remaining helpless forever. Maybe it’s just right now that you’re stretched so thin you don’t have the capacity to take on one more task or struggle through figuring out one more thing, but you know it’s temporary and you can take care of it yourself if it comes up again in the future. Maybe you’re not quite overwhelmed yet but you can feel it looming, and know that looking for help now is exactly the self-care you need so you aren’t desperate later. Maybe you’re coming to understand that you don’t have to be good at everything, or even competent enough to do more than know how to pick the right person to hire for the job. Maybe you’re coming to peace with the fact that you aren’t “stuck” asking, but that you are choosing to ask so that you can prioritize something else in your life or because you just don’t want to do the thing and that’s okay.

Or maybe you’re getting help from someone more skilled or knowledgeable than you, who is allowing you an opportunity to learn for next time. In some cases, you will find someone who can give you guidance that is specific to your situation so that you aren’t stuck trying to apply concepts you barely understand to a problem you don’t really grasp while educating you on what to look for next time. They might be able to look at a picture or video of what you are working with and tell you exactly what needs to be done so that you aren’t flailing around trying everything else first. In others, you might be willing to find someone who is willing to teach you hands-on, so that you can learn by doing. Not only will they be able to help you get that particular task done that one time, they’ll help you learn the underlying skills so that you can truly handle it yourself when a similar problem comes up later. Somewhere in between, a professional might let you watch and ask questions as they work, so that you can gain some familiarity with what they’re doing for when you can’t get them to show up another time.

Being independent, strong, and courageous are wonderful qualities. They don’t need to be your constant identity, though, and you are allowed to make them part of you and not all of you. Besides, there are times when asking for help is what makes you able to remain independent, and when being willing to be and show your vulnerability is exactly what makes you strong and courageous.

Hi, I'm Annette.

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