It’s okay to ask for help sometimes

Illustration by Meg Cuca

Illustration by Meg Cuca

Alya Bohr

Illustration by Meg Cuca
Illustration by Meg Cuca

I hate asking for help. Seriously, it’s the worst. If I ever happen to think that I might need to lean on someone, my brain quickly takes care of that nasty little impulse by gently reminding me that asking for help makes me ridiculously weak, stupid and worse than everyone else at Whitman–problem solved! Listen, if I had it my way, I’d just prescribe defiant self-sufficiency and we could all go around pretending that we don’t need each other. “I’m fine” would be our motto. It’d be great.

Until it wouldn’t be, that is. Until we find ourselves too overwhelmed and isolated and fruitlessly tangled up in our own heads.

Unfortunately, it turns out that I, like many others on this campus, need a lot of help in my life. I am constantly falling apart and people are constantly helping me put myself back together. I need help from my friends, my professors, my therapist. And I’m going to guess that you do, too. The problem with Whitman, though, is that everyone seems to have everything together all the time. And honestly, that can get exhausting. There are a lot of incredibly smart, talented, independent overachievers here, so it can be extremely daunting to admit to the fact that we might not have everything together.

The thing is, we really weren’t made to do all of this alone.

This school is overflowing with resources, with friends who want to support us and professors who want us to succeed. Maybe being entirely self-sufficient just isn’t the point. We came to college riding on this wave of newfound independence, this sense that we are here to make it on our own and to have it all figured out by ourselves. But is that really true? What if the greater lesson is to find the strength and the courage to lean on other people sometimes, to tell our friends when we’ve had a bad day, to go to office hours if we feel lost in class and to admit that sometimes we have no idea what we’re doing? Seems like life might be just a bit easier that way.

Let me tell you a little story: Last year I dropped something behind my bed and, in reaching over to get it, I somehow tumbled forward and trapped myself in a tiny hole between my bed, desk and window. I was upside-down-standing there, head and shoulders crammed into this dark little pit, legs above me flailing, totally and completely unable to extract myself. In an act of grace, I managed to frantically kick my phone off my desk and it lurched into the hole, where I then proceeded to call my friend and scream, “Help me! I’m stuck upside down in a hole in my room!” She quickly rushed to my side, wrestled me free and now, because of her, I am here to tell this story.

The moral of this story is as follows: if you don’t ask for help, you may very well end up stuck in a hole. Dead, probably. Sure, I get it, it’s a pride thing. But still, what are we trying to prove? I mean, I guess I know what I’m trying to prove: I just want everyone to think I’m perfect and flawless and incapable of weakness, is that so much to ask for? Apparently, yes.

We have nothing to prove about our self-sufficiency; at the end of the day, we’re all just bumbling along doing the best we can, and it would be so much easier if we just asked for help. Yes, it may be vulnerable, which isn’t always comfortable but it fosters connection, deepens our sense of connectedness and makes things a whole heck of a lot easier. Needing help doesn’t make us weak or inferior or not good enough. It just makes us human.