Asking for help: It doesn’t have to be hard

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Somewhere in the long history of civilization, someone lied and told us that we can do it all ourselves – that we don’t need to ask for help. Or, if we can’t do it ourselves, we better learn fast or die out here.

It’s an empowering thought, I suppose. It feels good to know that you could get a good job, pay for your car, or raise a child all on your lonesome, without ever having to depend on another soul. But it’s all wrong.

Now, we take the meaning of independence and individuality to extremes.

I think that’s the idea that destroyed modern civilization. It’s the reason for our rise in divorces, physical and mental illness, violence, crime, and probably a host of other social ills. They didn’t exist in early civilizations, where everyone planted together, reaped together, cooked together, and ate together. It was all about how one’s actions could benefit the group, and vice versa. And, even where someone did another person wrong, there was someone else waiting to help. Society was built on togetherness and compassion, a sort of all-for-one and one-for-all philosophy that made sure the entire tribe was healthy and whole.

Now, we take the meaning of independence and individuality to extremes.

Let me make this less secondary school, history lesson for you. Somewhere along the lines, we all lost our tribes. I’m not literally talking about Amerindians hunting for fish and making clay pots. I mean the tribes that we form in our everyday lives – friends, colleagues, and family members. We’re no longer focused on connecting with those people in our lives, and figuring out how what we are good at and passionate about can benefit them, and we aren’t concerned about helping them find to their gifts for the betterment of their tribes.

I’ve realized that ego and individualism have been big problems in my own life. I’ve always been so afraid to ask for help, to have someone to depend on. One of my biggest fears is having to need someone in my life. And though I’m always ready to help someone else, I never let anyone help me.

And that’s how some of us are. We don’t even realize how dependent we are on the people in our lives. We let ourselves believe that our problems, our jobs, our debts, and our concerns are just that – ours. And we like to think the same about our friends, our passions, and our possessions.

We don’t even realize how dependent we are on the people in our lives.

Basically, I lived a lot of my life thinking that I shouldn’t allow anyone too close, that it was me against the entire world. It means I don’t need to worry that who I am, when I’m home alone, doesn’t annoy or scare people away. It also means that no one gets to walk out of my life with pieces of me or hurt me too badly, and that I get to take all the credit for all the problems I solve, and all the things that I get.

But it leads me to hold in and hide a heap of thoughts and emotions that I can’t deal with alone, and prevents me from building great things for myself and other people, who want the same sort of happiness in their own lives. Not only is it a selfish outlook, but it doesn’t even make ‘the self’ feel a lot better doing it.

That’s why I believe that some of us need to let go of ourselves. It’s the reason we’re afraid to say how we feel, and to connect with others, but always feel so alone and abandoned. It’s the reason we all feel like outcasts, no matter how many people around us feel the same. It’s the reason we can’t understand and relate to other people, and always feel like we’re the ones being misunderstood. It’s the reason we’re so angry, sad, insecure ,and depressed.

They say that no man is an island. There’s never been a time where you’ve truly ever lived alone. So why isolate yourself? Don’t be afraid to let people know when you feel weak or vulnerable. Let yourself be vulnerable from time to time, instead of fighting it, and let others get involved – if that’s what they really want to do.

Stop pretending that you’re skilled at everything. Put up your hand and ask a question when you don’t understand a lecturer, or ask a friend whether they know how to solve a problem that you’re having difficulty with. You’ll find yourself being less stressed, more social, and making a lot more headway in those goals that you’ve been trying so hard to accomplish. After all, someone else has what you don’t have, and doesn’t have what you do. If “Sesame Street” taught us anything, it should be “cooperation makes it happen”.

And start being empathic to the others around you too. Ask what they need help, or check up on them, when it seems like they’re having problems. Listen when they’re saying they’re feeling weak, and give them a hand. And let them know when you’re feeling the same way, and need a helping hand yourself.

Like I said, one of my greatest fears is the idea of needing someone to live my life. But even above that is my fear of not being able to connect with people, of being alone. We often think that the way to prevent ourselves from being affected by these fears is to distance ourselves from people, and focus on what we can do for and by ourselves. It turns out, though, that the best way to fight our fears is to let ourselves depend on the people close to us, let those tribes do great things in our lives, and return the favour as well.

Brendon O'Brien

Brendon O’Brien is a writer, Spoken Word poet and performer, blogger, activist, and a host of other things. Simultaneously pursuing performance and journalism careers, he writes an almost-weekly, inspirational blog for ARC Magazine called “Operation Ante-Up”, as well as his own blog, and has tried his hands at acting in the 2010 Best Village-winning “RepatriHaiti”, and directed the ASHTAR Theatre production ‘The Gaza Monologues’.


  1. Camille Winchester

    April 23, 2012 at 4:06 pm

    this article speaks to me on a certain level

  2. Jaime Lee Loy

    Jaime Lee Loy

    April 23, 2012 at 6:12 pm

    Very well said Brendon! My next article looks at this in relation to women and the ‘super-independent’ dilemma. You nailed this topic head on!

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