Help? How Dare You!? / by Michelle Cowan

I get angry when people offer me help. I can cry all day long for someone to come help me, but that doesn’t stop me from instinctively shoving the help away when it finally comes. This pattern has truly been a conundrum for me throughout the past few years. I’ll take a look at it, work on it a bit, get distracted, and then be reminded of it much later. Well, a few recent instances have alerted me to how my natural tendency to push help away has inhibited me in many aspects of life.

To fully uproot this issue, I will need to look into family of origin issues and many things from my past, but here, I would like to discuss a few possible reasons for my seemingly insane reaction to the kindness of others.

Number one, I perceive an offering of help as an implication of my own inadequacy. The questions that flood my mind go something like this: “Why would I need help with this? Why do you think I need help? Do you think I’m not capable or responsible?”

Most of the time, I do actually need help. Yes, many tasks would be easier if I would allow someone to assist me. However, something in me never wants to be weak. I want to prove to the world that I can make it on my own when, in reality, no one makes it alone.

Secondly, if someone offers help, I think, “Does he believe he is better than me? Does she think I’m stupid? I need to prove everyone wrong. I can do this! How dare you insinuate otherwise?”

Obviously, some people know more about certain things than others. Many tasks simply require more than one person to accomplish them, and observant people recognize this and are willing to help. It’s pretty arrogant of me to assert that I can accomplish the impossible alone.

Other times, when people come and offer help, I wonder if I have accidentally revealed my vulnerability. I panic and try to figure out how a person was able to see that I was struggling or needed help. I like to think I’m good at putting on masks and pretending everything is fine. When I am proven that my façade is not quite as opaque as I’d hoped, I feel I’ve failed and immediately try to assert that I don't need a thing. I desperately want whoever has seen through me to go away. "Don't remind me of my weakness!" I cry.

I would like to change my thinking. It’s okay to fail at pretending to be strong. It’s okay for people to see through my veneer. The true me is strong but also needs help.

A final issue I have with the helpers of the world: I don’t want to be told that something is wrong with me. Something in me believes that if I need help, there must be something off, something that needs fixing, about me. I want to be accepted and loved just as I am, and if someone offers help, I construe that to mean that they don’t love me as I am. And all I really want is to be loved exactly as I am. If I think that someone does not accept me, I determine to drive them away.

In recent years, I have discovered that peace is not a static place; it’s an ever-shifting journey. Extremes naturally pull at each other and create tension inside. This is the universal process of homeostasis. I am always SEEKING it. The work is never done; I will never reach a completely blank place. Peace is feeling the tension and knowing that it is okay. Therefore, I am learning to accept all sides of me – light and dark, confused and focused, kind and malicious, trusting and skeptical, happy and sad.

Not everyone understands that both parts can exist simultaneously. When those people offer advice, they are trying to fix something that does not need to be fixed. I loathe it when I admit to feeling sad, and listeners insist on providing dozens of ways to be happy (as if I haven't already thought of them) rather than just allowing me to be sad and feeling that sadness with me.

Regardless of the less emotionally intelligent among us, some people are honestly trying to help, not fix me. Those individuals love me and just want to make life a little easier. What’s so bad about that? I regret that I have rejected such offerings. Does every moment have to be hard to have meaning? No. Life is meant to be lived in community, however much or little of it I need at any given time. I enjoy helping others. Why balk when the same outpouring of love is offered to me?

In any case, these notions have yet to be fully explored. A lot of ideas live within this single issue. For now, though, I’m recognizing that I don’t want to be told that I’m “messed up” and need fixing. Because of that deeply entrenched desire, I need to take a little time to pause when people offer assistance so that I can appreciate moments when I do need help and fully love those souls who want to give it.

Despite my continual prayers for superpowers, I am not Superwoman. I’m still holding out hope for the power of flight, though…