Breaking the Stigma: Asking for Help
Think about the stigmas you believe in. Do you think asking for help is a sign of weakness? Or those who struggle with anxiety just need to “get it together?” Over the next few weeks, I’ll be addressing some common things we think are set in stone in my series Breaking the Stigma. Today, I’m talking about our fear of asking for help.
In the culture I grew up in, I wasn’t supposed to be an inconvenience. If I needed an extra straw at a restaurant, I had to wait until the waiter asked me if I needed it. If I needed a friend’s help, I had to wait until they offered. Growing up in the hospitality-obsessed South — steeped in religion and ultra-conservative principles — asking for unsolicited assistance was discouraged and deeply frowned upon. Always offer, never ask.
Living with this fear of being a bother, I learned to do things for myself. I had to guarantee every plan I made wouldn’t put someone else out. Needless to say, this was exhausting both mentally and physically. Trying to not be an inconvenience led to deeper problems than just “doing it by myself.”
Psychologically, I had developed a sense of inferiority. Living as a sacrificial social martyr robs you of your self-worth. While on the outside you say you don’t want to bother, your ultimate mantra is “I am not worthy enough to receive help.” This leads to varying degrees of both depression and anxiety.
But what causes this mentality? I’m not the only one who deals with it. In my case, it stems from a poorly taught, but highly revered, principle of sacrifice in my Southern background. Other millennials from different backgrounds, however, have told me they feel the same. Is this a millennial epidemic or our natural fear of admitting we’re human?
Millennials are notorious for not asking for help. We claim we are strong, self-sufficient, and need no one’s charity. However, it’s more than that. Our inability to request help is twofold. We have both a deep lack of self-esteem and the fear of other’s judgment. Granted, the intensity depends on a multitude of factors such as culture and personality. Still, a tiny part of us is crippled at the thought of someone’s judgment.
Asking for help isn’t an admittance of your inability. Nor is it intruding on another’s generosity and thus inconveniencing them for life. Instead, it’s part of realizing you’re a human being. Does that mean you can call up your neighbor at 2 am to give you advice about what color you should paint your cabinets? No. But don’t be afraid to admit you need help. Whether it’s as simple as asking for extra napkins (which I used to be unable to do), or favors you know you can’t return.
Those who really care about you won’t judge you.