Everyone I know is up against it, one way or another. I don’t know anyone who isn’t hurting, anxious, exhausted, ill, overwhelmed or terrible combinations of those things. Faced with that, how can anyone ask for help, or for more than is already being given to them?
I’ve been doing a lot of rethinking around all of this in recent weeks. I have a long history of not being very good at asking for emotional support. However, I note that I get a great deal out of feeling useful and like I can make a difference. I also note that this is true for a lot of other people as well.
Small things can make a great deal of difference and most large things depend on a lot of small things underpinning them anyway. So, getting the small things right gets a lot done. When life seems overwhelming, those smaller actions can seem far too small as responses, but they aren’t. A genuine smile full of warmth and friendship can change everything. Small acts of care and kindness, of attention and listening aren’t hard to give, even for a person who feels sorely depleted. Exchanging small gestures of care and support we can keep each other going.
I’m finding that being really specific about what I’m asking for helps. Most often what I need is reassurance that the other person is ok with me. Sometimes what I need is a hug, or some feedback. I can be very wobbly, and very much helped by small interventions. I’m very much in the habit of toughing things out, but that doesn’t help me much and I’m not sure how much it helps anyone else.
Some people are of course needfully possessive of their time and resources. Asking for more when a person has already made some firm decisions about where their boundaries are and what they can give, doesn’t go well. But not everyone is holding tight boundaries. For some people, the opportunity to help can be a good thing. Some of us need to feel needed – this is definitely a thing for me and I tend to respond well to opportunities to be helpful. Some people need to feel wanted – in fact the majority of us need social affirmation and things that help us feel we are part of something bigger. Asking for help can be a way of meeting another person’s social needs.
I’m more likely to pull away and disappear if I need something different from someone I am not close to, than to ask for help. I have tended to assume that’s the better choice, and I have come to no conclusions about whether to rethink that or not.
Asking for help creates the opportunity for developing community bonds. What can look like taking from one perspective can seem vulnerable and generous from another. If we are able to collectively soften our edges and move towards each other what happens is not an increasing of each person’s exhaustion. Instead we can have mutual support that makes everyone who leans in feel that bit stronger and more supported.