How To Give And Accept Support

It is a common human struggle to accept any form of help. For most of us, it is almost second nature to shoot down any form of assistance that is offered to us. “It’s fine,” We say, our shoulders weighing down from the weight of the world, “I can handle it.” 

So many of us struggle with the idea of accepting help or even rationalising the idea that it is perfectably acceptable to ask for it. To live on one’s own terms and to do things at their own pace is something that should be celebrated, of course, but when does the line blur between being too independent or being comfortable on your own? 

There could be a multitude of reasons of why one can find it difficult to accept any form of support that comes their way. There are many who find it uncomfortable to accept any help because they simply believe they do not deserve it, that they would owe something at the end, that life is something they could and should perform completely on their own. 

Perhaps, one denies help because they’ve been let down before. Perhaps, they’ve been taught it is easier, that accepting any help reflects on their inability to do the one thing everyone around them can do so seamlessly; to take care of themselves on their own. There could be many reasons why people find it difficult to be gentle to themselves but none of them would ever justify them.

So how does one begin to accept help? The first task is to recongise that you find it difficult to do so. It’s important to understand that this admission can be difficult and could need time. There are no instances when one wakes up and understands they need help immediately. It is important you give yourself the time to be kind to yourself, to understand there is nothing wrong with needing the help you deserve.

Ask yourself why you feel uncomfortable with wanting help, write down what you feel in a journal and read your words back to yourself — listening to them like you would do with a friend. Think of what your feelings like you would with someone you care for. Allow yourself the patience and compassion you reserve for the people you love.

In a TED Talk, psychologist Susan David talks about “ending the tug of war inside of yourself”, which is to to stop looking at what you feel in black and white, rationalising your emotions and instead look at what you feel as what they’re trying to tell you.

Most of our discomfort and guilt that comes with asking for any kind of help can also be rooted to our lives as children and the forms of attachment we developed with our parents. These relationships have an important role in defining the way we navigate our lives as we grow up, how we trust one another and ourselves, if our needs were fulfilled or not. 

We must learn to be kinder to ourselves too. We cannot allow ourselves to be critical and demeaning, to berate yourself at instances you would not think would be wise to hurt someone else. We must learn to be aware of the voice in our head that berates us from reaching out for help and understand that voice comes from a place of hurt. But that doesn’t mean it’s true.

Once you learn to be gentler to yourself, the clarity you have around what you want and feel might feel a little clearer.

You can also ask yourself questions and try to understand the act of being human and being there for one another in different ways. Why do we want to help? What do we do it for? Is there always an ulterior motive? Are there not moments we do something out of the love and respect we have for one another?

These simple exercises allows us the opportunity to think of ourselves and the people around us in ways we don’t conventionally do. It is a very human feeling to want help and to also feel overwhelmed by doing everything on your own. It is a very human thing to help others as well.

Once we find it easier to understand, that the human race has survived because of what we’ve done with one another, you can reach out to your friends, family, partner or anyone you can trust and let them know how you feel. Your admission doesn’t have to be big. You can express that you feel tired. You can also start off with asking them assistance with the simplest of tasks; “Could you do the dishes for me?” or “I’m not feeling well, could you please take my dog out for a walk?”

If you find it difficult to ask for help, help someone else. Focus on what you feel when you do so. What they feel when you offer to carry their groceries or run a bathe after a heavy day of work. Helping others has an immense positive impact on your relationship with others and yourself as well.

It is also encouraged for one to seek help from a mental health professional if they feel they do not have the support system they need or resources to make things easier. A mental health professional can help you to understand why you find it difficult to ask for help, how you can get help and more.

In the book “The Best Care Possible: A Physician’s Quest To Transform Care Through The End of Life” written by Ira Byock, anthropologist Margaret Mead was asked what she considered to be the first evidence of human civilisation. Mead answer was a human femur they found in a 15,000 year archaeological site. The human thigh bone had a fracture running down but was completely healed. 

Mead answered she believed this was the first sign of humanity coming to one because a broken femur would have warranted one’s death in the primitive world. But they’d been taken care of and protected, long enough to be healed.

The first sign of humanity was us taking care of each other and being there for one another. To give and accept support and love to one another is not just proof of the human existence but of how far we’ve come and how much we’ve done together all this time. It is only that we are there for another that we survive.

Written by Fawzul Himaya Hareed