We’ve all faced something hard in life. Death. Divorce. Depression. Alcohol and drug addiction. Aging. Illness. Financial woe. Devastating loss. The list is long. And when adversity strikes, we often hear the same words over and over again: Be strong. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. You’ve got this. You’re the strongest person I know, you’ll make it through.
These are wonderful words of encouragement. After all, strength is a necessary tool to weather life’s storms.
But what happens when strength is not enough? “Sometimes being strong is never enough for what’s to come”—these are words I just read on a friend’s Facebook page. To me, this says it all. Even in our best attempts to “gut it out,” we still struggle. Because individual strength simply cannot conquer the really big stuff. Sometimes, we need reinforcement.
Sometimes, we need to ask for help.
Think about it. You don’t tell the CEO of a successful company that he can just “dig deep” and power his way through devastating company problems in the business world. It takes a team of people to truly identify, address, and remedy the things which purport to destroy a business. One person is just not equipped to handle such a pervasive task. This is why great leaders in any realm rely on one thing for true success: good help.
Take Winston Churchill, for example. In the recent film, “Darkest Hour,” we see Churchill’s character faced with one of the most unimaginable dilemmas ever—to try and negotiate peace with the ruthless Hitler regime, or to fight back courageously (thus risking immeasurable loss). The film portrays Churchill's grueling, often-lonely struggle to decide, the weight of the world clearly on his shoulders. And then, we see a turning point: before issuing his decision, Churchill bravely ventures into public and seeks advice from some of the everyday citizens of England, who were vehemently unwillingly to yield. This moment of vulnerability seems to have shaped one of history’s most important decisions: Churchill then chose to fight (and win!) against Hitler's monstrous attempt to conquer freedom.
Wow. Who knows what the world might be like today if Winston Churchill hadn’t had the courage to ask for help?
Clearly, asking for help can work wonders. But it’s not an easy thing to do. Because in our culture, we’re trained to “be strong” and just deal with the hard stuff on our own. We’re encouraged to rely on ourselves in a world where others can be so judgmental and unreliable. We’re scared to look weak. We’re scared that others won’t want to help us when crap happens. And all too often, people run away from the bad things, leaving us more alone and angry—just one of many reasons why we don’t ask.
Well step aside, culture. This way of thinking just isn’t cutting it.
Let’s change the stigma and talk about why we should ask for help when life gets hard. In short, it creates connection—one of our basic human needs. In her 2014 blog post, “5 Reasons You Must Learn to Ask for Help,” business journalist Minda Zetlin says that “Asking for help, getting help, offering help, and giving it when it's needed are all ways that we connect and stay connected with each other as human beings.” And without connection, we fail to thrive.
The truth is that, for every person who avoids us in hard times, there’s one waiting in the wings to help. Reaching out to the “helpers” in times of need fosters connection and community, something that can benefit everyone involved.
So how do you ask for help when it’s so hard? When everything inside of you is saying that you should just solve it all alone? When society is bullying you into thinking that it’s a sure sign of weakness? When you can’t seem to identify the “helpers” from those who will disappoint you?
I’m not gonna lie, it can be tough. Because it begins with admitting imperfection and sometimes, even failure. It starts with allowing others to see that you’re in a weak place. This can feel foreign and uncomfortable. And we tend to steer clear of areas outside of our comfort zones.
But friends, I’m telling you. It’s okay. You need help to get through the hard stuff. We all do. And believe it or not, there are people out there (like me!) who love to help and are just waiting for you to ask. In a series of upcoming posts, I’ll be exploring the best ways to ask for help, so stay tuned!
Until then, don't be afraid. When you need help, just ask. If Winston Churchill can do it, so can you. You never know, it just might transform your own world in some very big, unexpected ways.