A Brief Perspective on Vulnerability and Asking for Help

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Hey everyone!

Can y’all believe we are actually most of the way through summer? It feels like summer break started only a few weeks ago. Nevertheless, it’s been a great time. I’ve learned so much in school and through blogging for the last few weeks!

But one of the most important lessons that I’ve learned is the importance of letting other people help you. This next post is going to be a continuation of the conversation that I started with you guys last week- about the importance of being vulnerable. You can read that post here. In my last post, I talked about how it’s important to realize that, regardless of who you are and where in the world you live, you do have the power to make a difference. This week, I want to talk about letting others do the same by letting them help you.

I was inspired to write this post because of a book that I started reading called The Art of Asking: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let Other People Help, by singer-songwriter Amanda Palmer. I found this book while I was browsing through Barnes and Noble this past weekend, looking for something inspirational to read. I was attracted to this book because I was surprised that someone might think to write a book about such a seemingly mundane activity. After I picked up the book and skimmed the pages, I realized that asking questions, and more specifically, asking for help, can’t be mundane- if it was, why would so many of us refuse to do so?

Asking for help is difficult because of its nature- because it requires us to make ourselves vulnerable, sometimes to complete strangers, and because it requires us to trust- something we are often encouraged not to do. For some reason, we have learned that asking for a favor requires returning a favor. If you think about it, this is so absurd, because all people need help. Why do we expect each other to pay a price for showing our humanity to one another? Palmer talks about this very idea in her TED talk, which you can see here.

Learning to let other people help is a completely relevant topic in conversation about mental health because from personal experience, I know that not being able to ask for help when it is needed causes a lot of anxiety. In many cases, this new anxiety can compound already existing anxiety, and this extra anxiety is arguably completely unnecessary, but also extremely common for students and working professionals. It is curious how difficult it is for us to ask for recommendation letters, or ask for tutoring, or ask someone to help cover us if we don’t have enough cash for bus fair, or ask strangers for tampons or cough drops or kleenex or whatever it is we need to help us get through the day.

Why are we so scared to make ourselves vulnerable, even in the smallest of ways, especially when we know that anyone of the people around us have or could face the same vulnerabilities in other situations?

So what should you do to stop feeling this way? How do you go about fearlessly asking for help? It’s simple: only about four steps. The hard part is getting yourself to follow these steps.

The first step is basic- open your mouth. Get ready to say something, and hold your thought on the tip of your tongue. This is same first step you have to take to say literally anything, so doing it shouldn’t be that bad.

The next step is imagining yourself asking for help, and imagining the person you are asking saying “no”- the one word we are all most afraid of hearing.

The third step is preparing your reaction- what are you going to do if someone refuses to help you? What is the worst possible thing that could happen? Are you going to be eternally embarrassed? Are people going to laugh at you? Are you going to look stupid? And if any of these things do happen, how will you react? Preparing for the worst is the best thing that you can do here, because it’s likely that at times the worst will come true. But that doesn’t mean that someone will refuse to help you every time you ask, so you shouldn’t let that stop you from asking.

The fourth, and probably hardest step is being impulsive. Let your words slip out; be brave. Once you say it, who knows where your road is going to lead you? Finding out is the best part.

The most important takeaway I want to list here is that it is not a bad thing to be vulnerable. It is not bad to ask for help, and it is not healthy to feel guilty or indebted for taking help. What you can and should do is pay it forward: be empathetic, and encourage others to let themselves be vulnerable; always give help openly and willingly, and always remember that you deserve to be comfortable in your own skin because you can offer so much to the world by just being yourself.

 

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