How To Get Over Feeling Shame For Wanting Help

A reminder that accepting help makes us stronger, not weaker.

Last week, I hired a fantastic new team member for my business.

A few days ago, I wrote about how it has it made me worried. It’s a lot of pressure to lead, manage, and continue to create enough business to support this hire. (That story is here).

I talked about how I will sit with that discomfort. To keep moving toward my goals.

But there is another piece of the puzzle that I’ve come to realize.

Another part of the discomfort that I have yet to come to terms with.

Someone is helping me.

I was raised to believe that independence is one of the greatest strengths that a person can have. The ability to go it alone under any circumstance is a point of pride. And therefore, needing/wanting/asking for help is a weakness.

So instead of jumping for joy, here are the questions racing through my head:

Am I a slacker?

Am I too incompetent to manage my own business?

Why doesn’t she empty my dishwasher while she’s at it, while I lay on a chaise lounge eating the grapes that she’s peeled for me?

I feel shame for needing, for wanting, for accepting help.

But I’m trying to shift my mindset.

To find another way to think about it.

Are you, too, struggling to accept the help that you want or need? Let’s walk through these three thoughts together.

No one else sees all the pieces of your life’s puzzle

Whenever I struggle with my thoughts. I consider the source. The definition of shame is:

a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior.

I am feeling shame for seeking help. But is it wrong or foolish to ask for, or need, or want help? Or am I worried about what other people will think of me if I do have help?

For me, this shows up because my life is trifold. I am a consultant and a writer and a mother.

Each individual client knows how much work I do for them, but not how much work I do for all my clients. Or even how many other clients I have.

The other parents at my kids’ school see how how often I am able to pick up my boys. But not what I am doing when I am not able to pick them up.

And writing is a mysterious black box, where only I know how much time and effort goes into it all.

Taken together, it means that I am doing a lot. But no one knows how much, other than me. So I know that I need help. I see the whole puzzle. But others, those who might only see one piece, could judge me. See me as weak or lazy.

We all have lives like these. Lives with many different pieces, all cobbled together. No one at work knows that you are struggling with a health issue. Or taking care of an aging parent. Your friends don’t know that you’re having financial issues. No one else sees everything that goes into your life. Other than you.

So does it matter what they think? Or can we allow the voice inside our heads. The voice that knows more about ourselves than anyone else. The one that knows that we could use a helping hand. Can we allow our own thoughts to be the only ones that matter?

What feels like vulnerability is really opportunity

One of the hardest parts of asking for and accepting help is admitting that you can’t do it all. That you are choosing not to put on a brave face and ‘suck it up.’

But in reality, accepting help is both brave and smart.

I want to take my business to the next level. But I also want to have enough time with my family. And to take care of myself. I could choose to try to cram everything into my life. To do all the back office work myself, on top of everything else. But will that allow me to focus my efforts on the parts of my life that I find most valuable? Will I be able to prioritize what is important to me?

Accepting help in one area opens up opportunities for me in other parts of my life and business. The opportunity to spend more time connecting with potential future clients. To write more often. Be able to pick my kids up at school from time to time. And even get the occasional pedicure, too.

As Brene Brown wrote in Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead:

When you shut down vulnerability, you shut down opportunity.

It’s OK to want help because it feels good

Let’s revisit one negative thought:

Why doesn’t she empty my dishwasher while she’s at it, while I lay on a chaise lounge eating the grapes that she’s peeled for me?

The fear behind this is that accepting help is self-indulgent. That life should be work. And if you accept help because it’s fun, or because it feels good, then you are indulging in whims that you should keep in check. You are choosing to feel good when you could choose to work harder. And somehow, that is shameful.

But even if that were the circumstance. If I had hired someone to do those things for me. To peel my grapes while I lay around. If I can afford to hire someone and pay them a fair wage. And they accepted the job. What’s wrong with that?

What if I accepted that help just because it made me feel good?

So many people seem to believe that you have to earn pleasure or happiness. That you don’t deserve it unless you suffer first.

But here’s the thing: there’s so much misery in this world. It already exists, whether we seek it out or not. And then, on top of that, we create so much of it within ourselves. So instead of creating more misery, we should all try to choose more happiness. To accept the things that can make us feel better.

Isn’t happiness a valid enough reason for almost anything?

#shame #perfectionism #goals

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Denver, Colorado, United States

© 2019 Deb Knobelman, PhD.