It’s Thursday, so I’m Crafting my Life! I invite you to join in the fun. If you would like to share a story from your own journey, please drop me a line. If you’d like to find out more about my online class on living with intention and my upcoming e-book, visit craftingmylife.com.
I am not good at accepting help. In fact, I am so bad at accepting help, that I often view offers of help as requests for help. If something needs to get done, and someone is talking to me about how to make it happen, I sort of assume that I am the one that must do it. There’s a whole lot of type A, delightfully neurotic baggage that has created this behaviour pattern of mine. But at this point in my life I’m much less concerned with why I’m this way, than what I can do to change.
To help myself get better at accepting help, I’ve started doing two things:
- I’ve stopped jumping in to rescue people when it really doesn’t work for me. If someone is sick and has to bow out at the last minute, but I have other plans, I’m not filling in. There was a time when I would have dropped everything to help out, regardless of what it meant for my schedule or my own life. If I’m going to accept help, I can’t be constantly trying to help others, especially when I don’t really have the time or resources to do it.
- When someone offers help, I don’t automatically say no. Or, at least, I try not to automatically say no. Instead, I try to think of something I need help with.
(Confession: I am really uncomfortable typing that I can’t be constantly trying to help others. I want to be helpful – don’t we all? But I am leaving it there, despite my discomfort, because it’s an important point. We must help ourselves, and take care of our own needs, before we can offer real assistance to other people.)
The problem that I’m encountering now is that when someone asks how they can help me, I can almost never come up with an answer. Like I said, I’m bad at accepting help. I have some control issues. Giving up that control is hard for me. This makes it difficult for me to think of tasks that I want other people to complete on my behalf. I’m working on it, but I also have to meet myself where I am. I can make progress, but I’m not going to change overnight. I need an answer that works for me in my current mental space, but that also helps me to make progress.
Recently, the perfect answer hit me like a ton of bricks: when I don’t know what kind of help I need, I can always ask for space. At the beginning of 2011, I chose space as my word for this year. I realized I needed more space for myself, so I set the intention in January. But I can’t do it alone. If I want more space, I need other people to respect that, and support me in my efforts. And there’s no time when I need space more than when I’m struggling. If a good friend can let me off the hook, or understand why I’m not being as responsive as usual, then I have one less thing to worry about. That is a huge gift.
When I ask someone else for space, what I’m really asking for is understanding and compassion. These are some of the hardest things to give to ourselves. Most of us are far harder on ourselves than on other people, and I’m no different. But when other people give me understanding and compassion, it helps send the message that I deserve these things. Not because of what I’ve achieved, or what I’ve done for others, or how much money I earn, but because I am a human being. All human beings deserve compassion and understanding, including me.
Over time, I am getting better at asking for – and accepting – help. I may not be where I’d like yet, but I’m making headway. In the meantime, I’m learning to ask for the compassion and understanding I need from others in order to make progress. It feels like a huge leap forward, and a true gift to myself.
How do you ask for understanding and compassion from other people? And would you say you’re good at asking for and accepting the help that’s offered to you, or are you a work in progress? I’d love to hear your thoughts!