I gave her a kiss and she waved me good-bye before walking into her new classroom. Feeling a little uncomfortable to leave her I walked to the side window and kept watching my little girl. She put her bag on the table, took out her chair cover and tried to put it on a chair but it didn’t fit. So she went to the next chair without much luck with this one as well. She felt little bit puzzled, looked around and then went to her teacher who was busy to settle down one very distressed child. My girl said something very softly but her teacher probably didn’t hear it as the other girl was crying very loudly. Then she stepped aside, kept waiting till the other girl was settled and then I could hear her soft but clear voice “ Miss can you please help me to put this on my chair?” At that point I felt comfortable to leave her because she had just demonstrated a very important skill to cope in a new or uncomfortable situation: the skill to ask for help.
This is a basic but an important skill that we should teach our children from an early age and encourage them to practise this skill in various situations; getting a toy from the top shelf, finishing a difficult school project, finding way home when lost, navigating through challenging time with friends, expressing hard emotions etc. The best way to do that is to lead by example. So the next question is how good are we as adults to practise this skill? Do we all feel comfortable to ask for help when we need it? Do we know when, where and how to ask for help well enough? The answer is, No we don’t.
When I started working as an intern one of the most important advice I got was to know my limit of comfort to deal with a very sick patient and ask for help from seniors early rather than waiting for things to get worse. I have seen many cases where the treatment outcome was better because the doctor asked for help early. I have also seen the opposite, which resulted in unnecessary sufferings for the patients. The same is true for any profession. When there is too much workload, tight project deadline, getting some extra resources can often save the project but we feel too reluctant to admit that for the fear of being seen as not “smart enough” or “efficient enough”. So we end up exhausting ourselves and often failing as well.
It is even more complicated on personal level. Not long ago with two young children and both of us working full-time, I was struggling with household work. I was exhausted, often angry at my husband and children that they were making too much mess, frustrated at my self that the house wasn’t clean enough but still I wasn’t ready to admit that it was all too much to handle. I thought I should be a super mom, smart enough to handle work and home by myself (as shown on TV shows). If everybody else was coping well, why shouldn’t I? I finally realized that I was just trading my fear of being perceived as not strong enough or capable enough for the happiness and health of my family. Only then I changed my attitude and started getting help for the household work.
In general we are more likely to ask for help with things that don’t involve our self-worth such as how to set up our computer or fix the broken washing machine. However, we shrink with the idea of getting help to deal with difficult boss, work pressure, emotional hardship, demands of parenting, facing our fear and insecurities. In fact it is an act of courage to admit that we need help in a society where sharing our vulnerability is often regarded as weakness. I have been trying to be more courageous as I have two young souls to mentor and I don’t know any better way. What about you?
With love and gratitude