One of my favorite children’s books is the Amazing Mr. Zooty! In the story, Mr. Zooty comes upon a family that is clearly down and out. Knowing they are good-hearted people, he pretends to faint and, in reward for their quickly jumping to his rescue, he gives each of them a wish. Each wish he fulfills with some added embellishments – syrup for the little boy’s pancakes; a hat to match the mother’s new purse; and a house to go with the little girl’s kitten. When the mother says she doesn’t know how she’ll ever thank him, he simply replies, “Everybody needs a little help sometimes.”
Isn’t that so true! Yet what we do most of the time is keep our wishes (needs) close to our chests, refusing to share them with others. When we need support, rather than reach out to others, we hide. After all, sometimes it’s more important to look like you have it all together than to really have it all together … right?
No way! One of the things we need to get better at doing is asking for support. There’s no need to go it alone. This, however, is easier said than done sometimes. But why is that?
On one level, we have a general need to look good. We want to be able, competent people who can handle whatever comes our way and so avoid anything that might call that into question. In other words, it’s about saving face. Now, this is a natural tendency, but it gets us into a lot of trouble. Especially since things usually tend to get worse rather than better when we retreat and isolate ourselves and don’t get support.
Take the case of one client who lost her job but refused to tell her friends. After three months of spending and going out as if she had a job, she was in debt up to her ears. She eventually had to fess up to her friends that, not only had she lost her job, but she’d hid it from them, and was now in trouble financially – she had compounded things threefold! So much for saving face, right? Now, that’s not meant to be harsh, but it is a wake-up call that not asking for support or trying to hide in the name of looking good is counterproductive.
The other thing that stops us from asking for support is false beliefs about our value. Particularly if you have been abused, you will likely question whether you even deserve help from others. Or you have the idea that you will be too much of an imposition – after all, your problems are so big how could anyone else handle it? Another false idea is that asking for help means you are a failure. These false ideas trap and isolate us from others and need to be challenged and overcome.
Finally, sometimes, we just don’t know how to ask for support. The thing is, we have to tune in to what we really need before we can ask for it from someone else. Saying to another person, “I need some support” is the beginning of the conversation,not the end. What do you mean by support? Do you need someone to just sit with you while you process thoughts or feelings? Do you need help figuring out a solution? Do you need a phone call once a week to check in? Do you need them to call you on a behavior that you want to stop when they see you doing it? The idea is that asking for support that actually leads to, well, support means first getting clear about what you need and communicating it clearly to the person you are asking. There may be times, granted, when you don’t know exactly what you need, but you could communicate that or ask for support in getting clarity!
This part – asking for what you really need without vagueness, qualifications, or minimization – involves being vulnerable and trusting someone. This is the toughest part when it comes to asking for support. Here’s the thing though: anyone you ask for help has at some point been in your shoes. Don’t get fooled by the idea that what you’re going through is so different that others haven’t been there, too. It’s a bit easier to trust and be vulnerable when you remember you aren’t so unique; everybody needs a little help sometimes.
– Finish this statement: I don’t ask others for support because that would mean I …. Whatever is in that blank is the false belief you need to disconfirm or challenge so that you can communicate your need for support to others.
– How do you feel about asking for support?
– Write about your experience(s) asking for support or help when you were being abused?
Rachel Grant is the owner and founder of Rachel Grant Coaching and is a Sexual Abuse Recovery Coach. She works with survivors of childhood sexual abuse who are beyond sick and tired of feeling broken, unfixable, and burdened by the past. She helps them let go of the pain of abuse and finally feel normal.
Rachel holds an M.A. in Counseling Psychology. She provides a compassionate and challenging approach for her clients while using coaching as opposed to therapeutic models. She is a member of the International Coach Federation & San Francisco Coaches.
She is also the author of Beyond Surviving: The Final Stage in Recovery from Sexual Abuse.