Last month I got to spend a week with my twin sister as she recovered from surgery on her Achilles tendon that she ruptured. This was the first time since high school that we’d spent that much time together. Although I was there to take care of her and encourage her as she healed, observing how she managed the recovery process allowed me to reflect on how I respond to help from others. As I reflect back on that week, there are three lessons that stand out.
Asking for help is humbling!
Because we’ve been sold this myth that we don’t need anyone for anything, having to ask for help can be difficult. Especially when we’ve been socialized to be I-N-D-E-P-E-N-D-E-N-T (Webbie anyone?!). Who wants to admit that they need someone to assist with tasks they could once do easily? I watched my sister have to ask for help in order to eat, shower, run errands, etc. and I know it wasn’t easy for her. But although not easy, it provided her with the opportunity to humble herself. As I watched her do this, I realized how much I suck at humbling myself and asking for help. I typically see it as a chance for people to see I don’t have it all together (which I don’t) rather than an opportunity for me to practice humility and admit that I can’t do it all. The doctoral process has a funny way of reminding you how much you need other people. I’ve found that the more I practice asking for what I need, whether that is writing assistance, encouragement, direction, etc., the easier it gets to ask. Is pride stopping you from asking for help? How can you humble yourself in order to get what you need?
Asking for help shows you who wants to show up
As I was in Virginia with my sister, I was struck at how many people came to visit her. The doorbell would ring and there would be another person coming to check in on her, bringing flowers, food, or just good company. I realized that although asking for help is humbling and hard, it also allows you to see who will show up when you’re in need. We all have busy lives and yet people found time to show up for my sister. One of her friends even came over and painted her office so her office makeover project stayed on schedule. This reminded me of the people who have continually showed up for me during each stage of my doctoral journey. The friends who aren’t just there during the celebrations, but also there when I’m down and out. The people who check in with me and have no expectation of anything in return. The people who advocate for me when I’m not in the room. This journey has shown me what it means to be in community and who will be there. Who are the people in your life that continually show up? How are you cultivating those relationships and getting rid of the people who have not shown up?
Asking for help gets us what we need
As I watched my sister engage with her friends and colleagues, I realized all her needs were being met. All the things she needed, both big and small, were taken care of because she asked for what she needed. It made me reflect on the times I told people I was in need and the creative ways they supported me. The care packages delivered to my home, texts of encouragement sent my way, and holding me accountable to my writing schedule are just a few of the ways how asking for help has given me what I needed. What have you asked for and gotten?
Even though it might be difficult, what are the ways you can ask for the help you need? Not wait until you’re drowning, but ask before you need it most. More likely than not, asking will both bless you and the person extending the help. Remember you’re not on this journey alone.