The Art of Accepting Help

Have you ever read “The Art of Asking” by Amanda Palmer? Good book. I recommend.

I am always reminded of it when it comes to my difficulties with asking for or accepting help. Because the truth is, we can’t do it all alone. And we never have. Perhaps our most ancient almost rodent-like ancestors were lonesome creatures, only meeting up to reproduce before fighting alone for survival once more.

But we would have never made it this far if at some point down the line we hadn’t grouped together and achieved things together. That is one of our greatest strengths.

This includes asking for help, accepting help, and, of course, giving it. Our ability to cooperate like this, often without getting anything in return (not immediately anyway) or no more than thanks (which should be enough), is remarkable and we would still sit in trees without it.

So, why is it so difficult to ask for help or accept it?

I am wondering this today because I have received an offer for help which I really should not decline. A colleague who lives not far from me offered me her home with a spare room and desk as a workplace whilst my Internet is out.

My Internet is unlikely to be repaired today and it may take until at least tomorrow night, hopefully not longer. Refusing this offer would be stupid. I might only need to take it up tomorrow as I am already at work as I post this, using the public Internet available here.

I can’t rightly complain about my inability to do my freelance work without an Internet connection (unless I go to a local café) and refuse a friendly and totally selfless offer at someone else’s place where I have a quiet place and no extra cost.

I have been raised to be fiercely independent. That was my mother’s doing, who had to be independent long before she should have needed to be. It was one of the best gifts she has bestowed on me.

At the same time, she has always provided me with the support that I needed even when unwanted. To this day she does this. I don’t need it anymore. Not truly. But it has allowed me some comforts that I would otherwise simply have gone without. And I would not have been any worse off than I am now. I don’t miss what I don’t need.

Accepting help or support from other sources doesn’t come naturally to me. This is strange because I simultaneously wish for us to be more supportive of each other. I want that from my friends and anyone else I care about. I give it freely. No questions asked. I don’t expect anything in return and almost desperately hope everyone could be like this.

We are better, individually and as a whole, when we cooperate. When we support each other, help each other, and do not just seek to take from others.

Asking for help or accepting it seems oddly more difficult than providing it. To me anyway. It feels like an infraction of my independence. I can do it all alone. Except that I can’t. No one can. And that is okay.

But relying on others makes us vulnerable and, boy, do we have problems with that…