Guest Post by Walker Thornton
I hate asking for help. There is no one specific reason—a mix of not wanting to seem weak or vulnerable, and fearing I’ll be turned down.
I was raised in the South, by a very traditional mother who wanted a pretty, sweet daughter. I was taught boys didn’t like girls who were assertive or too talkative. I needed to wear makeup, let him lead, and keep my headstrong thoughts to myself. The underlying message: my ability to ‘catch a man’ was based on being feminine.
Logically, asking for help would have been a useful tool in my ‘get a man’ toolbox. But I found the idea of playing the needy female unappealing. I didn’t want to be a delicate Southern woman like my mother. I was not going to be helpless and fluttery. I viewed asking for help as an admission of my neediness.
When I bought my first car, at age 18, I learned to change the oil. During college I drove a transit bus. I taught my sons how to use a screwdriver.
Living alone for most of the last decade I’ve mastered self-sufficiency. It feels good to know that “I can do anything”, as long as no one expects me to put air in my tires. I am quite capable of assembling furniture, fixing toilet bowl handles, and programming my electronic devices. But when I really need help I have difficulty asking. Will people think I’m not capable of making my way through life as a single woman? Does asking reveal my weakness? My age? I overthink it.
How do we manage the balance between being capable and seeking help? Of knowing when it’s just common sense to have an extra pair of hands?
My insistence in doing it all myself could be misinterpreted as rigidity. Or foolishness. Asking for help, or accepting help when offered, is not a reflection on one’s life skills.
When a man says, “can you give me a hand?” no one questions his physical strength or masculinity. No one thinks of him as weak. So, why does asking become a challenge to our status as women?
Aside from my own personal issues there is a gender dynamic at play. Many men assume women need help. When we play our feminine role they get to show up as masculine. I experienced this recently in a rare moment of asking for help.
I resisted asking. I didn’t want to feel beholden, to get into the whole ‘man to the rescue’. But I couldn’t lift a bookcase (which I assembled) and the request made him happy. He wanted to be needed: to be seen as strong and competent. And me? I was overly apologetic and grateful, while also feeling a bit vulnerable.
What we need to do is find a balance that works for us. I am capable of doing most of what life throws at me, but there are times when I have to ask for assistance. The key is to understand that it’s not a judgment on my capacity to take care of myself. It’s simply a fact.
Asking for help is just common sense. When we allow ourselves to acknowledge our limitation, or our desire to work in partnership, what we’re really doing is inviting people into our lives. We find that ‘the ask’ becomes less of a statement about who we are and more about how we work and play with those around us.
Walker Thornton is a sex educator and author of Inviting Desire, a guide for women who want to enhance their sex life. As a public speaker she combines positive aging messages with sexuality by helping women be bold in what they seek in their lives. Links: www.walkerthornton.com and https://www.facebook.com/WalkerJThornton/ Yuu can find her on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/wjt62/.