Every once in a while there’s a post on my calendar that gets pushed out further and further. At some point, I’m forced to write it or let it go. This post on learning to receive is one of those that I’m forcing myself to write.
I mean, I’m terrible at asking for help so who am I to try and write about learning to receive? Or maybe I’m the exact person who should be writing about this right now.
I wrote a post about giving a few weeks ago and had a lot of fun conversations about it on Instagram. But when I brought up receiving and asking for help, I got a lot of virtual blank stares and messages saying, “I wish I knew.” We all know we need help, so why do we have such a hard time asking for it?
In American culture, we worship the self-made individual. We admire that guy who grew up in poverty and worked his way to the top and became the first millionaire in his family. Or that woman who built a multimillion-dollar company with nothing but drive and hard work. I love those stories as much as anyone. Heck, if I’m being honest, I want to be that story.
But the truth is that no one is truly self-made. Behind many successful men and women is often a crazy supportive spouse who cheers them on, encourages them to take risks, and picks them up when they fall. Behind every confident man or woman are mentors and coaches who show them the ropes and encourage them to grow. Without customers, readers, and fans, there would be no successful businesses or brands.
We need each other. But you already knew that. That’s probably part of the reason you’re reading this today. You want to get better at accepting help.
The Art of Rejection
Can I ask you a somewhat personal question? If someone offers you something, what is your knee jerk response? If you weren’t thinking about it and spit something out, what would it be?
For me, that response is, “No thank you.”
Of the many things that happen here at hollyscherer.com, one of my favorites is the monthly hiking meetup I host for local women. It’s so much fun and I’ve met so many amazing ladies.
One morning while we were gathering to head out for our hike, there was a group of guys who had just finished a long run. As most generous Minnesotans do, they came over and said that they purchased way too many doughnuts and offered some to our group. Without even thinking about it, I said, “no thank you.”
As a general rule, I don’t eat in the morning. And I’ve been discovering that I don’t really like doughnuts. But even if it was something delicious, like a Bloody Mary with a celery salt rim, sweet and spicy pickles, and garlic stuffed olives, I would have still said no. This realization sparked a lively conversation with the group about how we were taught to say “no” at a young age.
I don’t know if it’s just a Minnesota thing, but as children, many of us were trained to say, “No thank you,” when someone offered us something. And this wasn’t a stranger danger thing. We were taught to say no to friends and family. I remember being told, “They’re just trying to be nice.”
What in the holy heck?! Just being nice?!
Sadly, I believed this! And I’m almost embarrassed to tell you that I believed this for 40 years of my life.
Now I don’t know about you, but I am not going to offer someone something if I don’t want to share it with them. I’m not going to offer to drive a friend to an appointment if I don’t want to follow through. I’m not going to offer my husband part of my meal if I don’t want him to try it. To me, that’s self-inflicted madness!
I’m not saying that being generous is self-inflicted madness. My sweet husband, Jer, insists that everyone else fill their plates before he fills his own. This is how he shows love. But for people like Jer, the desire to please others can go too far. Like that time he was heading up a project at work and in trying to make everyone else happy, no one was happy. Including himself. Be as generous as you want as long as you’re not compromising your own integrity and happiness.
Back to the point of all this. We need to stop assuming that if someone offers us something, there’s an ulterior motive. Just be gracious and say thank you. Very few people have an ulterior motive and if they do, that’s on them and none of your concern.
That’s my two cents on learning to receive with grace, but what about asking for help?
The Art of Asking
Not that long ago, I would rather have died than ask for help. I can’t say that for certain because I’ve never been in that exact situation. But I’m confident that at the very least I would have made a pros and cons list weighing those two options.
During the worst of the financial crisis in Greece, I remember a conversation with a Greek friend. She was telling me how tight things were for her family because they had so many extended family members coming to them desperate for help. I was floored that these family members were openly asking for help. I thought to myself, nope, never, I’d be homeless and starve to death before admitting that I needed help. Not one of my proudest moments. But I know that some of you have also felt this way and I want you to know you’re not alone.
Asking for help is hard!
A while back I posted this quote on Facebook.
“One of the greatest barriers to connection is the cultural importance we place on ‘going it alone.’ Somehow we’ve come to equate success with not needing anyone. Many of us are willing to extend a helping hand, but we’re very reluctant to reach out when we need it ourselves. It’s as if we’ve divided the world into ‘those who offer help’ and ‘those who need help.’ The truth is that we are both.”Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection
This led to a beautiful and meaningful conversation with an old friend who has been battling ovarian cancer over the last several years. I’m so grateful she agreed to let me share this conversation. In turn, I invite you to send her your prayers and well wishes.
Here’s what she had to share.
“Asking for help is hard. I’ve gotten better at it over the last year. My experience is that people do sincerely want to help and are happy to do so when you reach out and ask or simply accept their offers.
I learned to do this after getting my cancer diagnosis and starting chemo. There were times that I needed a ride, someone to sit with me during chemo, and a variety of other things. Asking for help is humbling, but I truly believe it brings joy to those who are helping.
The first thing I asked, was that people pray for me. For those of faith, it’s an easy ask and a ready acceptance. This next one I didn’t find myself having to ask for, but l learned quickly to always accept people’s offers of food. I don’t much like to cook, but I really like to eat! If they want to know what you like, give them a suggestion. I craved soup during my first line of chemo. I received and ate some amazingly delicious soup! And I didn’t have to make it when I was exhausted from treatment or a long day at the hospital.
I guess my best advice would be to resist your urge to say no. We need to get past our pride and allow others the pleasure of helping. And I really hope that others do not have to learn this lesson the same hard way that I did. Next time you have the opportunity to accept another person’s help; do it!”
Powerful words, aren’t they?
One thing that came up several times was the joy others feel when you simply allow them to help. Think about it. How do you feel when you’re able to make someone’s life better? Whether you’re preparing a delicious and healthy meal, serving up an idea to help them grow their business, or watching their littles so they can go on a long-overdue date night, helping feels good. It’s part of what it means to be human. So why do we deny people the joy of being able to give to us?
And have you ever considered that it might be perceived as rude? As my friend, Ashley, more eloquently says, “The greatest gift to the giver is to simply receive.”
So I leave you with a challenge. The “next time you have the opportunity to accept another person’s help; do it!” If you don’t do it perfectly, try again next time. No one is self-made and we need each other. And you will become a better giver when you learn to receive.
The sun says to the unripe grape,Rumi, The Two-headed Thing
There is a kitchen inside you
where you can make vinegar,
or if I help, sweet juice.
Are you good at asking for and accepting help? If so, what are your best tips to help me and everyone who reached out get better? Share in the comments below or come start a conversation on Facebook.