Dear Self, It is Okay to Accept Help!
There’s this thing that was ingrained in me by my parents and everyone around me that the need to be totally self-sufficient are the ultimate life goals. I was reared, whether intentionally or non-intentionally to always be a person that never needed to ask anyone for anything and if I did need any kind of assistance, it had better be far and few between because this is life and I need to figure things out on my own.
I’ve recently began to realize that this isn’t really what life is all about. Life isn’t about being completely independent and doing everything by your lonesome and plowing through the trenches with no assistance. Life isn’t about being a super human. Life is about sharing, experiencing things with others, bonding, learning, and love. Life is not an independent journey. It is a co-dependent one.
While the lesson I was reared with as a black girl was always for me to excel and be my best self, I wasn’t given a blue print on healthily depending on others, via other people in general or resources. And while that lesson might not have been an uintentionally harsh lesson for me to digest as a young black girl in the Chicago suburbs, I remember being told in both direct and indirect ways that depending on others or resources is akin to being a user, lazy, and unaccomplished.
Growing up with this belief spilled over into adulthood so accepting help whenever needed has always been one of my largest challenges. Even help that is offered to me with no strings attached, I have always aligned it with being weak, looking for a handout, prideless, lazy, a user, etc. It wasn’t until recently that I had a really empowering conversation with one of my best buddies about the goals I have for this year and just how I’ve been planning to attain those goals. My friend offered some suggestions that I immediately shut down. When I shut them down, my friend made me understand why I was shutting them down and helped me to really understand that those perceptions I held and things I was taught about what it means to need and accept help were faulty. And that what we should do is encourage those things and learn to drop our pride when we need things, people, and resources, and ultimately learn to leverage the help we receive into opportunities that would not be present (or that would take much longer) if we were left to do these things completely on our own, unassisted and unaided.
Life is about learning to be our best selves in the healthiest and most satisfying ways possible. If this means that a little help is needed to help us achieve our goals, there is no shame in that. There is no shame in needing additional resources, outsourcing tasks, and even flat out asking for help in anything that is giving us a hard time. The moment we start shunning help of any kind – help that can propel us in the ways we seek and need, is the moment that we commit ourselves to a struggle that we do not need, thus hindering our goals and keeping us in the very spaces we are working to pull ourselves from.
Pride is a commendable trait to have. But what good is your pride when you turn down assistance, resist help that you need, and commit yourself to struggle for the very thing that can be solved more quickly and easily with that resource or help? While I am not encouraging begging, I am definitely encouraging seeing the bigger picture and leveraging the help that is offered and available to help spawn, sustain, and cultivate opportunities for growth, advancement, and positive change.
In that discussion with my friend, we also spun into the social stigmas on black people that receive help (see: government assistance) and abuse this resource and others that may receive such assistance and use it as a stepping stone and viable resource tool for them to build on their short term and long term personal and professional goals. Using any form of help – be it government assistance or money that is lent from a trustworthy family member or friend does not have to mean that you are abusing the resource, lazy, or incapable. It can always mean that you are doing your best with some helpful hands along the way in your journey to success. No man is an island and all that jazz.
Receiving help is still new territory for me and while I am cautious with whom I receive help from, I am also more intentional with using any resources that I receive as a stepping stone or additive to achieve overall goals. The perspective around receiving is what is the most important to me because that perspective is what drives the attitude we have moving forward, which undoubtedly determines our readiness to do whatever it takes to get to where we want to be.