Wednesday, April 27, 2016

How to Cultivate Connection

Connection doesn't exist without giving and receiving. We need to give and we need to need. {Brenè Brown, Rising Strong}

Receiving is hard for me–gifts, compliments, help, even a cup of coffee–they are all difficult. Why? The reasons range from "I don't want them to spend money on me" to "I don't want to inconvenience them" to "someone else deserves it more" and  "I don't know how to respond."

When I lived in a remote village in Kenya for six months, it was customary that when visiting someone's home you would bring a gift, usually bread or some other food item. I'm not a gift-giver but because it was tradition and the expectations were clear, it wasn't hard. However, when given a gift outside of the food realm, by someone who had very little, I felt so bad. I remember saying "Oh no, I can't accept this!" which was a terrible response because it hurt the giver; I quickly saw that was the wrong response and changed my tune. They fully wanted to give and it would have made them happy to see me receive their gift with open arms. "Until we can receive with an open heart, we're never really giving with an open heart."(Brene Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection)

I'd always been self-sufficient and so when Gary and I got married, it took a while for me to start asking for help. Whether it was reaching the highest shelf or changing the oil in the car, I could do it but it did made more sense for him to, even though it made me uncomfortable to ask. I slowly learned that he was open to me asking for help and liked being there for me. It's being vulnerable when you ask for help and trust that they will see that need and meet it without judging. My husband might even say I'm a bit too practiced in being vulnerable and asking for help these days.

I really struggle with asking and accepting help from others. I don't mind helping others if I can and usually do so full-heartedly. But (here comes the embarrassing part) sometimes a judgmental part of me is there saying "Can't they do that on their own?" Therefore, if I think that about others, surely they think that about me. Brenè Brown says "When you judge yourself for needing help, you judge those you are helping. When you attach value to giving help, you attach value to needing help." (pg. 180, Rising Strong)  She goes on to say that "The danger of tying your self-worth to being a helper is feeling shame when you have to ask for help."

The reason I'm delving into these thoughts is because the other day we were at a friend's house and they asked my oldest son if he would like something to drink. Immediately he said what I always have in those situations, "Oh no, I'm fine." I knew he would have loved a drink but did not want to inconvenience anyone.  This is not what I want for my children. Sure, I would love for them to be independent and work hard, but I also want them to be able to ask for help and accept gifts graciously. This is now a goal that I have; connecting better with others through giving and receiving–without judgement and with an open heart. It's being vulnerable and trusting that others do want to help and will value my requests, and if they are unable to assist, hopefully they would be clear with that. So...anyone have a cup of coffee for me?

Offering help is courageous and compassionate but so is asking for help–Brenè Brown.


PS I'd love to hear your thoughts on this! And...because I love teaching, this is ASL (American Sign Language) for help.  Just lift your hands in an upward motion in this position. If you want to say "help me" you bring it towards yourself and "help you" is towards the person you're indicating.


  1. I've always been a giver, putting others needs high above my own, and seeing myself as self sufficient. Not only would I not ask for help, I'd also not wait to be asked for help, and just do what I thought the person needed before they even asked, which probably perpetuated the "I can't ask for help" thing...
    I've recently found myself in a place of high need, and I'm learning to put my pride aside to accept the help that's being offered to me, even if I think I could struggle-on on my own. Even if I could just struggle-on, doesn't mean I should, especially since there's kids involved. Humbling lessons to learn, for sure.

    1. Yes, just because you can push yourself harder, it's so wise to know when to accept help! Hope you're doing okay, Beth.

  2. Feel like we have had a few conversations about this :) you'd be proud of me...I asked for help this week. I felt guilty about it later but one step at a time right?

    1. Yes! We're pretty similar :) Go Leah go! I'd laugh about you feeling guilty but only because I get it. Hope your week is going well, friend!

  3. Anonymous8:35 PM

    As we've layered on the neediness I've been forced to accept and ask for help. And most people are wildly generous and kind about it, but the slightest hint of judgement brings an avalanche of shame. Totally unhealthy overreaction. But for some reason I get the weird feeling that people who help us deserve some kind of say in how we live our lives and deal with our problems (years of living on support?). This has highlighted the lie that I embraced somewhere along the way that to be a good mother/wife/friend/person I should never cost anyone anything. Selfishness is my greatest fear, because growing up it was the worst sin. For a woman.

    1. So much going on. Interesting about selfishness being such a fear, I did not hear that growing up. Oh man, what am I drilling into my own kids' heads?! Now I'm going to bed and reflecting on all of this...