No, this is not about me asking for help – far from it. Today I’m looking at acceptance of help, and what are the barriers for me personally to ask for it.
I feel really great when I can help someone else, and really terrible when I need help myself. I avoid asking for help at almost any cost. I remember one time that I had to ask a family member for help. I was shaking so much that I could hardly hold the telephone. I have always tried to be self-sufficient and get very cranky when I feel I should be able to do something on my own, but cannot do it.
A trait of siblings?
Part of the reason for writing this blog is to better understand what traits are common to siblings of people on the autism spectrum or sibs of any severely handicapped person. Everyone reacts differently, and I have found through comments to other posts, that some of my foibles are not necessarily due to having an autistic brother, but probably more related to the totality of my childhood environment. (These posts were about keeping things for sentimental reasons and having trouble getting rid of stuff – I’m getting better at it, by the way.)
That being said, my question for siblings is: Do you have problems asking for help for yourself?
I’d rather do it myself
In the 1960s, the headache remedy, Anacin, ran a commercial in which a mother makes a suggestion to her daughter about cooking. The young lady yells, “Mother please, I’d rather do it myself!” She is filled with remorse, and says to herself, “Sure, you have a headache, you’re, tired, irritable, but don’t take it out on your mother.” Would she accept help if she weren’t tired, irritable and headachy?
What if there was a pill that would make one better able to accept help? I’d take one.
There are those who don’t need a pill for that
If you’ve ever lived in New York City, you know that there are plenty of people on the street who are not afraid of asking for help. Some of them are in need, without a doubt. But some are downright brazen. For instance, there was a woman who was asking everyone on the street for help with buying her groceries. A generous passerby gave her five dollars. After looking at the money, she said to her benefactor, “That’s not enough,” in an insulted tone. Can you imagine that? Some people really have chutzpah. If it were me who gave her the fiver, I would have yanked it back.
What does asking for help mean for donor?
If a person is unable to help him or herself, help must be provided. In the case of my older brother, there is no doubt. He does not talk; he is autistic; very low functioning and he looks a bit scary. He knows what he wants and has no trouble asking, in his own way. For him, there is no embarrassment, no self-consciousness. If he can’t reach the food on the top shelf by himself, he will get someone else to do it for him. His case is black and white.
I have trouble with the gray areas. Being taken advantage of is toxic for me; it means that I was foolish. There are very few things I despise more than being thought a fool. How do I know I’m not being conned by someone asking for help? Maybe it doesn’t matter. But what if the guy with no legs brings them out of hiding, gets up, dances a jig, laughs in my face and says, “Gotcha, sucker!” Just saying…
I should adopt my daughter’s attitude. She is very generous to strangers and doesn’t mind if the recipient turns out to be a con artist. She says that the impulse to help and the follow-through of actually helping is what matters. That is comforting.
What does asking for help mean for the donee?
This is a very hard for me to say. I already know it is not pleasant. One always sees in old movies, the desperate old guy who refuses to take a handout. I know what he must feel: humiliation, shame and inadequacy. If one can get past these feelings, I can imagine there would be others: gratefulness, thanks, perhaps fellowship.
Who are they who can ask?
Are there people who ask for help who are not at the end of their rope? How does that work? What happens if needed help is refused when asked for? That’s always possible.
Asking for help doesn’t fit comfortably with me at the moment. However I am very interested in how I can get to the point where I can gracefully ask for help; accept help when given and understand when help is refused. What kind of person does one have to be to do that with dignity?
I was taught that asking for help was a sign of weakness as a child. I might go so far as to say it would be a great cause of shame for the family. As an adult it has made it very difficult for me to accept assistance. I feel it is my responsibility to care for everything as an adult.
Thanks for that, Sheri. I understand what you mean. In my case, I don’t think it was explicitly or implicitly taught. I came up with it myself. What a bright fellow, hahaha. Bur I do imagine that it would take a good deal of strength to be able to ask for and accept help.
Thanks for commenting.
I have that problem as well. I think it helps to be in community with others, like a church or a service club. When I had young children, my husband and I helped others in our church Sunday School class to move to their next houses. They also helped us when we moved. Sometimes it helps to let others know what kind of help you need. Moving your household to another place would be very difficult without help. We needed to ask. After moving to my present house (18 years ago), I said to my friend, I am so tired, I can’t finish putting my kitchen stuff away. She came over and helped me put my silverware in my drawers.
I guess that is sort of the golden rule. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
That would be half the equation. No problem with the ‘doing’ part (helping others), but asking for help… I don’t know if the golden rule covers that. Could be wrong.
Thanks, Ann. The implicit asking for help is successful in the presence of sensitive friends or neighbors. If everyone in a community helps each other at one point or another, it becomes less of a hurdle.
Thanks for commenting, Ann.
I have to think that innately we “wanna do it ourselves.” I mean as children grow up they usually try to do things independently as they mature, and only ask for help when they think they need it. So, that being said, it is odd that others freely take any help they can get, and don’t seem to feel bad about it. Again, it’s all about balance, and helping others, but also letting others help us if we need it. I try to anticipate that someone will need help and just do it so they won’t have to ask, because I assume they probably won’t ask.
Ah yes, anticipating the needs of others and jumping in. That is a double-edged sword: 1) jumping where not wanted (as in, mother, please, I’d rather do it myself); or 2) being expected to jump in. I think, particularly with children, the jumper-inner should wait a beat or two before coming to the rescue. It would give a kid a great sense of accomplishment to solve his or her own problem.
As always, Jill, thanks for your comment.
Yes Jack- you may as well have been writing about me and my history of aversion to asking for help. I’ve definitely attributed this to my upbringing in a family where the unspoken message was that our parents- esp our mother- already had a full plate with issues related to our brother so the rest of us kids (and that’s 5 of us) should mostly try to take care of them ourselves. It can lead to a lifetime of difficulties in many facets of life.
I can imagine that with a lot of siblings, there would be even less incentive to ask for help. Over the past few days, I’ve been remembering that my parents did not want to ask for any help themselves, even though they could have used an extra hand in getting around.
I agree that problems can arise if we don’t address our reluctance to seek help for our own good.