“My progress is my own responsibility. I don’t need others and I shouldn’t depend on them for help.” True or false? As with most things in life, there is no yes or no answer to that question. At times, it’s important to ask for support and at times we must fly solo. Knowing what’s the right approach to take and when is part of what I call the play of paradox. Life is rarely, if ever, an either/or equation. In principle and in practice, life is full of contradiction—paradox. It’s a balancing act.
The dilemma so many of us face in trying to achieve that balance is that we’re awesome helpers and givers but not very good receivers. We don’t ask for support. We don’t admit to others or to ourselves that we need any. We forget that there are always two sides to the picture of wholeness. To fulfill our role and our potential in life, we must learn to give and to receive.
Here’s an easy way to understand why getting support is essential. We always hear on airplane flights that if there is an emergency, we should put on our own oxygen masks first before helping others. It’s obvious: If you can’t breathe, how can you help others survive? Now apply that to your own life. If you’re stuck because you don’t have the support you need, how can you give your gifts and help others get unstuck? Taking time to get the care you need may temporarily look to others as selfish or uncaring, but it’s not. Increasing your capacity to give is the most giving thing you can do.
Nature is full of metaphors that help us see the principle of support in action. Take the habit that birds have of flying together in V-shaped formations. Flying like that saves energy. It reduces the drag force the birds would experience if flying alone and permits them to fly much farther than they could by themselves. When the lead bird, who has to work the hardest, gets tired and falls back, another bird quickly takes its place. Survival during their Olympic migrations depends on individual strength and teamwork.
That kind of integration of self-reliance and team work doesn’t come naturally for all of us. If that’s the case for you, you may be burdened with the insidious myth that “if I can’t make it on my own, something is wrong with me.” Even worse, you may believe that you don’t deserve support. Everyone deserves support, and we all must learn to give as well as receive it.
We forget that even the brightest stars in any field of endeavor have always needed their coaches, mentors, and cheerleaders. Where would the heroic hobbit Frodo Baggins be if his friend Samwise Gamgee hadn’t stuck by him through thick and thin, saving Frodo several times so that he could complete his mission? How far would Helen Keller have gotten without her faithful tutor, Anne Sullivan? How could Michael Phelps have earned his eight gold metals and an Olympic world record without teammates to help win those stunning medley relays? You are no different. Someone is destined to be your cheerleader and help you move toward the fulfillment of your dreams.
One of the greatest lessons we can learn is that asking for support, when appropriate, is not a sign of weakness but a sign of strength. Asking for support is healthy. It means you believe that you are worthy of receiving. Not only that, but asking for support is an act of love. When you seek support in making the best decisions in your life, you are acting out of love—love for yourself and for those who will be impacted by your choices.
3 Tips for Getting Unstuck and Seeking Support
f you have trouble asking for support when you need it, these three tips can help you get unstuck and move full steam ahead.
1. Focus on what you need most now. Is there an area of your life where you feel stuck? What kind of support would help you move forward more quickly? Support can be physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. It can be anything from scheduling a massage once a week to joining a community where you can share your passion or get answers to issues you’re facing. It can involve talking through a decision with someone you trust or hiring a consultant or coach. In the spirit of giving and receiving, consider trading services with someone whose help you need.
TIP: Ask yourself: What one step can I take right now to seek support, guidance, or advice in an area where I feel stuck?
2. Surround yourself with positive people. Choose friends who are positive, have healthy habits, and make you feel good about yourself. Steer clear of toxic people or critics who make you feel unworthy or are not willing to support you in achieving a healthy lifestyle.
TIP: If someone in your life is weighing you down with their judgment, politely choose to spend time instead with positive people. If you need new friends, join a community where you will find support and comfort and where you, in turn, can help other people with your unique gifts.
3. Challenge critical voices. All of us have some self-doubt. Learn to challenge the negative voices in your head that would try to convince you that you aren’t good enough to get support with a strong statement of truth. Create an affirmation that you can say aloud or silently to yourself when those critical voices come sneaking up on you, such as: “I am worthy, and getting the support I need will make me stronger,” or “I honor myself and my full potential by asking for and receiving the right kind of support.”
TIP: People are more willing to help than you might think. If the people you approach cannot help right now or are not willing to help, it doesn’t mean you aren’t worthy. It just means you haven’t found the right supporters yet. You will.
Patricia Spadaro is the author of the award-winning book Honor Yourself: The Inner Art of Giving and Receiving, an inspiring guide to giving your best gifts by learning to honor your own needs, draw healthy boundaries, let go of painful endings, and celebrate your unique voice. Patricia is dedicated to empowering others to live more deeply, fully, and authentically. Her books have been translated into more than 20 languages worldwide. For more inspiration and to learn more about Patricia’s work, visit her at www.HowToHonorYourself.com.
Copyright © Patricia Spadaro