Since I’m a finalist in a short story writing competition, I’ve been asking friends and family to support me by reading and commenting on my entry. That’s kind of a challenge for someone who hates people reading her work. Don’t get me wrong, I love feedback – from faceless readers! Not people I have to interact with on a regular or semi-regular basis. I think deep down it’s because I am highly performative person and writing is the truest thing I do. It’s like exposing yourself. And I’m not particularly good at doing that with people in my life.
Here’s what I’ve learned about asking for help:
1. It is intimidating.
Asking for help isn’t easy. Apart from a few people that I’m comfortable asking anything from, I cringed every time I had to tell someone I wanted their help for something that would benefit me solely.
2. It feels like nagging.
Despite the fact that I myself am happy to help anyone who asks me for help (if I have the capacity to do so), I found that asking people for help felt like I was pestering them.
3. Receiving help is perversely satisfying.
I have more than 40 comments on my entry and I can’t stop smiling about it. I wish I could say that I’m enjoying this so much because it’s a testament to the goodness of people. But really, my pleasure is entirely selfish because the people who took the time to aid me showed me that I matter to them and mattering matters to me.
4. It opens your eyes.
A significant portion of those 40+ comments are from people who are friends of friends or total strangers. Every single one of their comments (so far) has been positive and wonderful and I guess it just goes to show that people can surprise you. And it makes me feel a lot more confident about my writing which I often hate sharing because when I write, I share my truth and my soul and I’m pretty sensitive about what people will think of it. The overwhelmingly positive responses have been delightful.
5. It makes you wonder about “keeping score”.
I thought a lot about how it was so easy to ask some people and not others. It was very easy to ask my family, for example, because hey, “you do for family”. It was more difficult with more casual acquaintances. And when I’d asked, I wondered if that meant that I owed them now. I think that speaks to how I frequently hold myself to double standards. I am perfectly happy to help someone knowing that I am doing so for the sake of it. I don’t need or expect anything in return. So why don’t I give others the benefit of the doubt? I should probably work on that
Ultimately, I learned that there is no harm in asking. That there’s no weakness in it. And feeling squeamish about it is helps no one and probably points more to internal flaws rather than reflecting the feelings of the people you ask help from.