It’s common practice out here in San Francisco for most supermarket clerks to offer you assistance in getting your groceries to your car. They ring you up, bag your items and inevitably say, “Ms. Mahoney, do you need any help out?” Not once have I said “Yes” to this kind offer. But more importantly for what I want to explore here today, is that for a long time I never even considered giving anything but my habitual response of “No, thanks” as a viable reply. The truth is, I didn’t really even listen to the question because like in so many situations in the past when I was offered help, I knew well in advance that I would automatically turn down the support. Like when I moved and a neighbor offered to carry a box up three flights of stairs or when my friend offered to bring me chicken soup to help defend against a lingering cough. In both of these instances, and many more to be sure, I didn’t consider myself as having the option of saying yes. Iinstead the only thing I knew to say was “No, thanks.”
I know I am not alone with my challenge in engaging support. In fact, it is one of the most common issues I see among my clients and workshop participants. When I ask them, “Who is going to support you through this process?” or, ” What kind of support are you going to get in order to make these changes in your life?” they often draw a blank. When pushed further to identify some kind of support system or network, they insist that they don’t need any support, that they are accomplished, independent people who can do this on their own.
Sound familiar to you??
In a society that places such high value on independence, many mistakenly view asking for or accepting support as being weak or burdensome but it is neither. In fact, it is in asking for support that we show we’re strong enough to admit the need for help and clever enough to seek it out. Furthermore, when we accept support we give the gift of allowing others to help us the same way we have helped them. Think about how honored you felt when your dear friend asked to cry on your shoulder during her divorce. Or how flattered you felt when your selfless mother called YOU for advice.
It is my belief, and the belief of many wiser thinkers before me, that only when we allow ourselves to ask for and accept support from other people, to actually give up our addiction to independence and replace it with a commitment to interdependence, that we can truly reach our full potential and in doing so allow others the opportunity to reach theirs.
Learning how to engage support, especially after years of habitually denying yourself this abundant resource, is challenging but not impossible.
I invite you once a day, for the next month, to practice engaging support in the following two ways.
Asking for Support
Each day there is something we wish someone could help us with but we don’t ask for that help because we fear we will be perceived negatively. For the next month I invite you to challenge yourself and each day ask someone for support. It can be as small as “Can you pass the sugar?” to as big as “I could really use a kidney, might you have a spare?
On a daily basis we are offered all kinds of support that we habitually say “No, thanks” to because we feel that this is what we’re ’supposed’ to say. For the next month I invite you, each day, to accept the support you are offered. It might be a kind gesture of “Can I grab you a cup of coffee?” to something along the lines of “Let me watch your kids while you have a night out with your husband.” Whatever it is, I invite you to say, “Yes, Thanks!”
The further we have strayed from our community roots and extended families, where a village helped raised its children and you could grab a cup of milk from the neighbor’s cow across the way, the less we find ourselves asking for and accepting support from other people. I invite you to challenge yourself each day for the next month by opening yourself out to these opportunities. Perhaps before you know it, you’ll find yourself saying, “Yes, thanks!” to the question, “Kirsten, can I help you out with your groceries?”