For most of my adult life I have not asked for help. If I didn’t know how to do something, I simply pretended I did. If I didn’t know how to do something, I simply pretended I did. Unsure what to quote a potential client? I’d make an educated guess, and hope for the best. Stressed out about my kid's perpetual tantrums? I'd buy stacks of parenting books and read them in secret - fearful that any admission to strife at home was a comment on my ability to mother.
On one hand, this faux confidence was useful. My fear of appearing uncertain — and therefore weak and incompetent — forced me to be extra resourceful in order to figure things out without having to ask a human being for help. (Thank goodness for Google.)
But my refusal to ask for help was also a refusal to be humble and to connect with other people. I feared, if someone did help me, I would then be indebted to them. Or, worse, I would ask for help and they would disappoint me.
Like many women I know, I felt immense pressure to be independent and to take care of everything myself — lest I appear unqualified (God forbid) or risk burdening somebody with requests for help. This is understandable and the legacy of sexism that to this day forces women to out-perform men before they are taken seriously. But all that independence came at a price. There is only so much a person can do alone. And the more alone you are, the more vulnerable and incapable you actually become.
It wasn’t until five years ago, in the face of tragedy, that I finally realized — and accepted — that help and support are abundant, shame-free and the stuff of life.