You may be of the opinion that accepting help is not a good thing to do. Because you may feel guilty for feeling like a burden to someone. Or you feel bad or even ashamed because you now need help. Maybe you’re afraid of being seen as needy. Or worried that people will say no and you’ll look stupid in some way.

It’s understandable to feel this way. There are so many reasons why accepting help is seen as a no-no, or a last-ditch effort. But some of these reasons are culturally ingrained and actually don’t help us to help ourselves.

If you’ve read my blogs before on this topic, most recently on losing your independence due to illness or injury, and regaining it, you’ll have seen I’ve been writing about this topic from different angles over the past few years.

In this blog, I want to make the case for why accepting help is good for you. If anything, to get you thinking, and maybe challenge your assumptions around accepting help. So that the next time you are in a position to accept help (or not), you can make a really informed decision for yourself.

When underlying assumptions about accepting help are not true, they can disrupt the healthy balance in giving and accepting help. In this picture a person is saying to someone, "I can help. Let me know.' The other person responds, 'No, I'm fine.' But inwardly is thinking, "If I accept help, that means I am weak and needy. Plus I would feel like a burden and guilty.' Those are assumptions often ingrained by the society we live in.

But first, let me share an example of accepting help

A recent example is Eliud Kipchoge who was the first person to run a marathon in under two hours on 12th October 2019. He didn’t do the effort alone. It was a meticulously planned event which took several years of preparation. It involved a sponsor, his coach, his training team, the city of Vienna, the 41 pacemakers and a whole lot more people I am sure.

Eliud had to enlist their help and support. And if you watched the race, you would have seen how happy they were to be doing that. The pacemakers consistently said, ‘I am very happy to be doing this. It’s an honour.’

They relished in giving their help. Eliud received it all and used it to do what he does best, run a marathon in the time he was aiming for. They received the satisfaction of knowing they helped a fellow runner and the glory of being part of this historic challenge and helping to make it happen.

You see the mutual exchange that is happening?

Eliud asked for help. He received it. Those who helped got something in return. This is a healthy form of giving and receiving.

There is also an added bonus in what he has done for others which was best put by his coach Patrick Sang: “He has inspired all of us that we can stretch our limits in our lives.” I’m sure we’ll soon be seeing more people running marathons in under two hours.

I feel @EliudKipchoge recent efforts to run a marathon in under 2 hours is a beautiful example of a healthy rhythm of giving and receiving #help to make great things happen. #NoHumanIsLimited #INEOS159 Read what I mean here Share on X

Accepting help creates an interdependence

I think this is why some people fear asking for and accepting help. They fear feeling dependent on the other person. They may even feel beholden to them, i.e. they now ‘owe’ the other person.

But there is value to interdependence

Interdependence creates connection. With others. And you know what? We humans thrive on that. Serious illness or injury and chronic illness can be very isolating. When we refuse genuine offers of support or help, which would really help us, we can inadvertently isolate ourselves further. So we don’t give ourselves the chance to stretch our limits.

The connection of interdependence shows that we matter

Esther Perel put it beautifully in her email newsletter of 5th August 2019:

“For when we know that we matter to others, it gives us a significance.”

Esther Perel

When someone is genuinely willing to help us, we know we matter. When we are genuinely willing to accept their help, they know they matter.

Knowing that we matter to someone else is a very validating experience. We feel affirmed. We’ve been acknowledged. Witnessed. This is the stuff that feeds our self-esteem.

There is so much value in the connection created by inter-dependence.

For this to happen, both parties have to want to give and receive

The giving and receiving is mutual. There’s also a rhythm to giving and receiving.

When I ask for help, the other person says yes to giving help. (Provided we ask the right person to help us, i.e. they are willing to help us and capable of helping us.)

I say yes to accepting help.

The person helps me do what I need/want to do, be or achieve.

The person giving receives satisfaction in helping me. They know they did a good thing. They feel good.

In the picture are two women. One is asking, 'Can you help me?' The other woman is saying, 'Yes, I can help you.' Between them is a figure eight on its side, like an infinity sign. In this picture that is a sign for the healthy flow of giving and accepting help. It shows the woman who asked for help accepts the help given. For the woman who is willing to help, it shows the satisfaction she receives in helping. When the giving and receiving of help is mutual, there's a healthy rhythm to the giving and receiving.

But by only being willing to give and not accept help, we disrupt that rhythm

By only being willing to give and not accept #help, we disrupt the rhythm inherent in giving and receiving help. Read more about that here #seriousillness #seriousinjury Share on X

We’ve got a lot of people wanting to give, but not people willing to receive.

Accepting help is difficult for many people for the reasons I initially stated. Sometimes those reasons are valid. Other times, they aren’t. When they aren’t, this is often due to society’s assumptions around receiving help, i.e. being seen as too ‘needy’ or not capable, or needing help is a sign of weakness.

This ends up disrupting the rhythm of giving and accepting help in an unhealthy way. We’ve ended up with this imbalance in society where it’s ok to give, but not ok to receive.

The picture says society's assumption is it's ok to give help but not to receive help. There is a person saying, 'I can help. Let me know.' The other person responds, 'No, I'm fine.' Between the two people there are two circles with a jagged slash between them to demonstrate the rupture to the rhythm of giving and accepting help.

You often see the saying ‘giving is receiving’

It works the opposite way too. Receiving is giving.

Coming back to the example of Eliud Kipchoge above, by giving and accepting help, you enable good things to happen. You stretch the limits of what is possible for yourself and others.

So keep that healthy rhythm of giving and accepting help going.

This is a picture of an original quote by Return to Wellness: "We often say that giving is receiving. It also works the other way. Receiving is giving too. By accepting help you stretch the limits of what is possible for yourself and others."

What’s it like for you?

What do you think about accepting help? A good thing or not? What’s your thoughts on the rhythm of giving and accepting help? Share your thoughts or questions in the comments below or alternatively email them to me (contact form in sidebar).  

If you are living with a challenging health issue or are caring for someone who is, and would like support on any of the issues discussed here, have a look at how we can work together and get in touch for a free no obligation consultation.

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© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2019

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