The guilt and shame of the words “I need help”

I need help spelled out in letter blocks

I’m sure we can all agree that there are so many times in life when we want to scream I NEED HELP.

Not a single one of us had made it to midlife without someone’s help here or there along the way. So why do so many of us feel that saying I need help is a failure of some kind?

We are raised from childhood for the end game of becoming self-sufficient. We were told to think for ourselves. Choose for ourselves. Do for ourselves.

A big part of moving into adulthood was learning to stand on our own and become independent. The word independent is defined as not requiring or relying on others according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary.

By midlife, we’ve looooong left behind us our childhood days when those around us were literally waiting for us to ask for their help. Those first two decades when our parents, relatives, siblings, teachers, faith leaders, neighbors – all helped us move through life. We felt nothing shameful in accepting help, nor in asking for it.

So at what point did we decide asking for help meant we had independently failed?

When did it start to feel so awful and icky to ask for the assistance we really need? When did we decide reaching out for help meant we were somehow incapable or needy?

The truth is, in some deep dark part of our being – it makes us feel ashamed and guilty to ask for help.

As if asking means that we’re not enough. Not smart enough, not patient enough, not kind enough, not independent enough.

The words I need help translate in our self-talk to mean we’re doing something wrong – or something is wrong with us. We assume that every other person in the free world is handling everything just fine by themselves.

So, most times, we don’t dare ask for help.

Even when we’re sick, reeeeeeally sick, it’s still such an unbearable thought to ask for help.

It feels like failure when we don’t have all the answers, can’t seem to keep it all together, and find it impossible to juggle every ball in the air without dropping any.

When we’re in a rough spot emotionally – whether it’s our marriage, or divorce, or the grief of loss, or battling illness, or even just feeling left out – seeking support can be incredibly helpful and healing.

Sometimes asking for help might take the form of speaking with a professional – a therapist or counselor.

Why should that make us feel guilt or shame? Just because we’re grown-ups doesn’t mean we should have to handle everything all on our own.

We wouldn’t hesitate to advise a friend to seek professional help with whatever, so why can’t we give that permission to ourselves?

It shouldn’t be so damn hard to say I need help!

“Help only comes to those who ask for it.” – J.K. Rowling

Let’s stop putting this unfair pressure on ourselves.

Let’s accept that calling a friend, or reaching out to a neighbor, or seeing a therapist or doctor for help is OK. And it doesn’t make us one shred less independent for doing so!

It’s not a sign of weakness or failure. It’s not because we are not enough.

It’s just a part of being human.

We weren’t meant to do everything alone. No matter our age.

It’s really so simple. We need each other! That’s it. No shame, no guilt, no judgement. No beating ourselves up over it. No feeling sticky icky gross about it.

Think about how quickly we say yes to anyone else asking us for help.

It’s in our nature to want to lend a hand or an ear.

So we need to accept that asking for help is part of our nature too.

There’s no shame or failure in reaching out for help.

Ask for the help. Accept it when it arrives. Return it when you are asked.

Look for opportunities to help those you care about – especially when you think that person might be feeling too sticky icky gross to ask for themselves.

“People who need help sometimes look a lot like people who don’t need help.” – Glennon Doyle Melton

I need help. There I said it.

Maybe not professional help (at the moment) but help all the same. I need help parenting. I need help caring for my aging mother. I need help organizing and keeping my house clean. I need help staying motivated and positive and inspired to be my best self.

For crying out loud, I need help figuring out what the heck to wear when I have a dressy event to go to!

It’s time for us to collectively relearn that not being able to handle some things alone doesn’t make us helpless or losers or failures.

Screw the shame and guilt! Whatever it is you need help with today – ASK FOR IT!




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