This month is women’s month in South Africa. Like most countries, we are somewhat proud of the superheroes that are the women of our country. However, at the same time, we are also aware of the great burden we as women carry on so many levels. The burden of being many things to many people very often comes at the cost of our own well-being.
The pressures for us to step up, step into, and do what needs to be done is likely to also mean we do not ask for the support we need. We try and do everything ourselves. We do whatever it takes to get the job done on our own. In the end we feel a sense of accomplishment for achieving the feat that was deemed impossible.
My earliest memory on this topic is of my mother telling me that between me and my brother, I would be the one that would go off and try to do things on my own. She used to say that I would go and figure it out for myself, no matter how long it took. On the other hand, my brother felt free to ask for help, to say he did not know, and to seek guidance. This continued into my teens and later adulthood.
I was very proud of being self-reliant, independent, and of the very fact that I rarely – if ever – asked for help. I mistakenly assumed that asking for help meant I was weak, uncertain or unsure of what do to, that it could be seen as me not being smart enough, good enough or worthy enough.
I developed into an adult that was afraid of allowing someone else to help me because it meant I might lose control of the situation. I also had this inner voice that said that I should not burden others by asking them for help or for support. This didn’t only happen in my personal, but in my work as well. I erroneously fostered beliefs that I am the only one that can do it my way: it’s easier and quicker for me to do it than to train or teach someone else to help me. You can well imagine that this way of being and working is a clear recipe for disaster or a breakdown, or otherwise deep unhappiness.
The truth is we never do anything on our own. There are multiple layers and levels of people that contribute to a situation or outcome. By harbouring the illusion that asking for help would cast me as weak I took on too much. Later I became resentful because no one would offer to ease the ‘burden’, even though I was the one that took it upon myself. I felt depleted. I felt exploited, overwhelmed and unappreciated.
I can honestly say that for me, the act of asking for support and openly receiving it was probably one of the hardest life skills I had to learn. Growing up, I remember hearing ‘no man is an island’. It is only now that it resonates that I do not have to do everything alone. In fact, there is greater fulfilment in allowing others to also be part of and contribute to my journey or whatever it is I was working on. The truth is: we are more powerful, stronger and effective when we work with others and co-create than seeking the satisfaction of individual achievement.
I continue to learn and embrace not knowing, not having all the answers and allowing others to support me on my journey. I have learnt that when you are aware, conscious, continuously growing personally and professionally, and someone WHO courageously ask for and openly receive support…you are stronger.
Asking for help is not an instinctive way of being for me. It takes awareness and effort on my part. Whenever I falter I am reminded of the following reasons why asking for help is in fact a superpower:
- Asking for help means you are able to use your energies and focus more strategically.
When you ask for support, you allow others to share the task with you, allow for greater flow, fun and ease in the journey. It frees up more energy and you are less resentful, exhausted and overwhelmed. My coach used to say, ‘there are many things you are good at, focus on what you are great at’. That is a very good reminder to bring on board other talents and energies to support me.
- Allowing yourself to receive.
When we give or receive a gift, we release oxytocin, a powerful bond-stimulating hormone. I must admit it is easier for me to be in the position of the giver, and I’m a tad less comfortable to receive. When you ask for support, you create opportunities for others to express love, and to experience the happiness that comes from giving.
- Deepening trust and connection.
When you ask for support, you strengthen the trust and connection between yourself and others. Allowing others to experience you as ‘vulnerable’ and also needing support, you acknowledge that you too are Human and imperfect, thus allowing others to relate to you. No one is perfect and everyone has room to grow.
So, as you go about being a superhero – know that there is strength in acknowledging and owning your vulnerability. Whilst we do indeed need moments of solitude and aloneness, we are also designed to co-create life changing experiences together. Who can you ask for support today and give the gift of giving?