Why It’s Hard to Accept Help

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Conceptual photo relating to helping a business or person in need of help.

One day I was coming back from a trip to IKEA with flat boxes of furniture that I had to put together. I live in a high-rise building, so I took a cart from the building’s lobby to load all the boxes. Our building has a doorman and it is his job to help the residents bring packages in the building and he asked me more than once if I needed help with my boxes. “No, no!” I insisted each time, “I’m fine!”. I was actually getting irritated by his constant offers to help. Did he think I was helpless? Did he think that because I’m female that I didn’t have the strength to carry my own boxes? I proceeded to struggle my way into the building past his confused looks and upstairs to my condo.

I opened the first IKEA box and took out the instruction manual. On the very first page of the manual I saw a cartoon of a cute IKEA person trying to lift a box by himself and he looks really grumpy. The picture has a big X through it. Next to it, is another cartoon of two cute IKEA people holding one box together. Both of them are smiling.

We really do receive spiritual guidance from all kinds of places and the IKEA instruction manual is no exception. When I looked at those pictures, it suddenly occurred to me how strange my behavior was. Why did I insist on hauling these boxes by myself? Why wasn’t I able to accept the help from the doorman – especially when his job is to help me? It occurred to me that I equated offers of help as an insult – I felt I was being called weak, a baby, unable to do things for myself, and the dreaded… “needy”.

Realizing my underlying beliefs about offers of help helped me to understand why I seemed to have to do everything myself – and why I was so exhausted generally and, at times, felt very alone. When I really did need help, I would get frustrated by people’s ignorance, since they tended to assume I was fine and had everything under control. If I reached the point where a situation was so bad that I would actually speak up and ask for help, my request sounded to me like a grand declaration – a really big deal. To others, my request sounded very nonchalant and would sometimes get ignored.  The result? I wasn’t getting what I needed. I wasn’t allowing myself to receive.

The other side of refusing help is that people interested in giving are denied that opportunity. The doorman looked a little insulted himself when I refused his offers, and I wonder how he interpreted the situation. Perhaps he felt I was rejecting him or that I thought he was useless or that perhaps I didn’t feel he was strong enough to handle the boxes. I had denied both of us the opportunity to be working together to lift my heavy load, and to be smiling at each other like the cute happy IKEA people in the cartoon. More than one person suffers from our lack of ability to receive. So, next time, take a breath and just say, “Yes, I’d love some help. Thank you.” And see what shifts.

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