Being perceived as a strong and independent woman is something I have always clung to as very important in my life, even when I was a child. I don’t know if it’s something inherent or something I acquired as a kid growing up with a disability, but regardless of the genesis, it’s something I recognize in myself. Asking for help has historically been tough for me because I’ve always thought that if I ask for help it’s a sign of weakness, and that tarnishes my self-perception of being strong and independent.
Ironic then, that I’ve chosen triathlon as my sport of choice. Perhaps it doesn’t immediately make sense that triathlon would force me to let go of my above-described view of myself, but let me explain . . .
In most sports, I don’t need any help or accommodations in order to participate. These sports allow me to avoid the quandary of asking for help and weakening the perception I have of myself. For example, if I want to participate in a 5k run, I just register like everyone else and show up on race morning. In order for me to participate in triathlon, however, I have to contact the race director ahead of time to ensure they will be able to give me extra space in the transition area (I need a chair to sit on and space to put my sports-specific legs) and find someone (usually my husband, Zach) to act as my handler to help me get out of the water since I swim without my leg and hopping out of the water is pretty tough, especially when there are rocks at the swim exit. Triathlon is a sport that forces me to ask for help and rely on another person to carry out my race.
Triathlon has taught me that it’s okay to ask for help, and sometimes it even makes us stronger when we do. Without Zach’s help, I couldn’t successfully complete a triathlon. I certainly don’t think that him having to assist me out of the water changes his perception and makes him think of me as weak or dependent. To the contrary, I think it makes him see me as the strong and independent woman I want to be, and that’s certainly how it makes me feel about myself.
It’s more than just triathlon, though. I think so many of us think that asking for help in everyday life makes us appear weak. What we forget, however, is that everyone needs help with something at some point. As human beings, we can feel fulfilled when we help each other. Each one of us has different strengths and weaknesses. It does not make us appear weak or dependent to call on others when we need to utilize their strengths because that’s what we need in a certain moment or to complete a certain task. Let me rephrase that . . . asking for help does not mean you are weak, it just means you’re human and you accept that some else’s strength might be what you need at a specific time in your life.
I also believe that by asking for help from others, you are opening the door for those people that you’re asking to reach out to you when they feel that your strengths are what they need, whether that’s similar or completely different to the type of help you needed. For example, while Zach helps me with triathlons, I often help him with writing projects and sorting through issues at work.
It’s really a cyclical process, and you never know who you might be helping when you ask for help. Sure, you’re probably helping yourself, but maybe, just maybe, you’re also tangentially helping the person providing you with the help as well, whether that’s immediately or six months later when they come to you for help.
So, next time you hesitate about asking for help, remember that perhaps we can all be stronger together if we shed those misconceptions, go ahead and ask for that help you really need, and be ready to offer help to others when they need it in the future.