This month’s blog theme is about the difficulties we experience when asking for help, why that is and what we can do about it. This post is part 2 and focuses on the role self-worth plays when we don’t ask for help. Part 1 focused on the role guilt plays.
When you can no longer do things for yourself due to health issues and you have to rely on others for what feels like basic living requirements, you can start to lose confidence and your self-esteem. You wonder if you will ever be able to do things yourself again. You think you probably should ask for help more but you don’t want to. You want to be able to do it yourself.
There are really good reasons for that, which I will explain here and they will help you understand why you may be feeling the way you do. I’ll also share 3 things you can do to help you find ways of rebuilding your confidence and self-worth and enable you to make conscious choices on whether or not to ask for help.
How DIY builds self-worth
DIY or Doing It Yourself gives you a sense of achievement, which makes you feel good about your abilities and yourself, and therefore contributes to your sense of confidence and self-worth. When you can no longer do things for yourself, there areÂ less immediate opportunities for that and so your confidence and sense of self-worth can start to float away.
On top of that, there is the loss of doing favourite activities. Many times we link activities we really enjoy into how we view ourselves as a person. For example, I am a dancer, I am a table tennis player, I am a mechanic. When you can no longer do those favourite activities, it is like you have lost a part of yourself. That loss can manifest itself in refusing to ask for or accept help, because when we do, it is a reminder to ourselves of what we have lost.
3 steps to rebuild self-worth
I write that and feel it may sound contrite, as if rebuilding one’s self-worth was as easy as one, two, three. This isn’t a magic wand recipe. There are 3 steps you can take to restore your confidence and rebuild a sense of self-worth and this can take time. But it is some of the most meaningful work you can do for yourself.
- Acknowledge your loss
- Find alternative ways of doing things and new projects
- Remind yourself of the asking for help paradox
Acknowledge your loss
Firstly, acknowledge what you have lost, the impact on you and others, and how you feel about it. This may not feel like a normal thing to do and may seem downright unpleasant. I am not advocating you unpack and live in unpleasantness, it is not the final destination. Only that you visit these feelings and emotions on your journey.
The reason we perceive spending time with unpleasant feelings and emotions as not the ‘done thing’ is we see them as ‘bad’ as a society. And therefore we should not feel them. Yet they are part of the wide spectrum of human experience. Making room for them acknowledges that we are human.
This approach is very restorative. It helps us to rebuild our inner foundation. There is no right or wrong way to do it. Just have a go and notice what you feel.
You acknowledge your loss by saying, writing or in whatever way feels right for you (baking, playing music, drawing, sport, etc.), ‘I feel, I think, I believe…’
Using ‘I’ statements allows you to own what you are feeling, thinking and believing, rather than pushing it away or disassociating yourself from it. That’s not good for your longer-term psychological/emotional health as negative emotions and feelings are being hidden. When emotions and feelings are not allowed expression, they will find a way to leak out to express themselves.
As you spend time with those unpleasant feelings and emotions, notice where you feel them in your body, in your chest, legs, arms, stomach, wherever. Ask yourself if love is available for you even as you sit in the difficulty you are experiencing. Keep asking the question. It’s about making room for love to be present even among the unpleasant feelings and emotions.
Finding the alternatives
When you rebuild your inner foundation, you free up energy to focus on other things like finding alternative ways of doing favourite activities or starting new projects. To demonstrate this, here are real-life examples of what others have done. They experienced a sudden onset of a long-term condition, which affected their physical abilities to do everyday things.
A man’s favourite hobby was table tennis but his mobility was affected. He reached out to share how discouraged he was. We ended up working together to figure out what he could do, set a small goal, and he played table tennis for 5 minutes. Over several months, through adapting his approach and rebuilding his stamina, he was able to play for 30 minutes. He was overjoyed with his accomplishment.
A woman experienced bad neuropathic pain and some sensory loss in her hands, affecting her ability to use them. She was experiencing fatigue, so could not do much physically, and anxiety regarding the uncertainty of her recovery. The boredom of sitting at home motivated her to find a project to occupy her mind. She chose genealogy research, which required using a computer and her hands. It was painful and slow. But the research was interesting, a distraction from the uncertainty and anxiety, and it provided a sense of accomplishment. Although unintentional, using her hands was a form of rehabilitation. She regularly updated family on her research, which they loved and they encouraged her to continue.
The ingredients from these examples which contributed to these people rebuilding their confidence and self-worth were setting small goals and so making them more achievable, focusing on what they could do, openness to considering alternatives, willingness to adapt, realising it’s a journey that will take time, tolerating some pain and discomfort, persistence/grit, doing something enjoyable and interesting, learning a new or relearning a skill, and reaching out for support from others. (And they had bad days too.)
The help these people received from others was broad: a listening ear, sharing updates, setting a goal together, recognition and encouragement. To obtain that, they had to be willing to reach out in order to share information and ask for help.
The paradox of asking for help
Reaching out and asking for help is a paradox in that it is not a demonstration of weakness but one of you taking control. It is you recognising your needs and finding alternative ways to meet those needs. You can rest easier because your energy is not being used to fight your health issues, but looking for ways to work within your capabilities. It is also you recognising that you continue to be a very capable being.
What’s it like for you?
What motivates and enables you to reach out and ask for help? When you have found alternative ways of doing things, what did you learn about yourself?
P.S. Pass it on
Many of the ideas contained within this post are applicable to everyone. So if you think a friend or family member would benefit from reading it, or you just want to share it with the world, use the icons below. And come back in a couple of weeks for the final post in this series of asking for help. See you then!
© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2016