Understanding Why I Don’t Like to Accept Help

I wrote recently on how I don’t like to accept help, in or out of the gym. I thought about why and came up with 3 reasons. If we look at these, I bet we’ll become better athletes (and people).

As I was writing my recent story about the things I deprive myself and others of when I refuse to accept help, I also started thinking about the reasons that tend to guide my refusals. Why on Earth wouldn’t I accept help that was honestly and sincerely offered? Especially if I obviously need it? (Note that we’re talking here about help that’s obviously safe to accept; if my spidey sense kicks in a la The Gift of Fear, that’s another story altogether.) Well, as with many things, it comes back to the old saw that my responses have more to do with me than with the person offering. In other words, I am interpreting a simple offer to fulfill a basic need through my own personal foibles. (Welcome to my brain. I’m sorry I didn’t have time to straighten up before you arrived.)

Through the painful process I go through of becoming more self-aware, which I’ve documented elsewhere, I started to figure out the reasons I refuse help, and how understanding these might help me move past them to 1) develop as a person and, more immediately and more “duh”-inspiring, 2) get help when I need it. In my case, it’s not just a matter of telling myself, “Accept help!” because if it were, I would have done so before. So, to figure out what I get out of not accepting help, I’ve had to go spelunking in my own psyche. And I’ve figured out three reasons I don’t like to accept help, though I’m sure there are more.

1. I have to admit to shortcomings.

If I can’t do it myself, what if it means I’m lacking in that area or am not self-sufficient? Yes, it’s just someone offering to help me put my equipment away. But given that I say “no thank you” without even thinking about it, I may be responding not to this specific offer, but to something this offer suggests – in my imagination – about my competence. Knowing me, I am the one who has planted this suggestion about my insufficiency over time, as I (like many of us, I’m sure) am my own worst critic.

2. I have to make myself vulnerable.

Let’s assume I’m able to get past my knee-jerk reaction that accepting help is indicative of some sort of weakness on my part. Accepting help still requires me to make myself vulnerable to another person. It is highly unlikely that someone would help me clean up my equipment and then turn around and call me lazy. Even if s/he did, theoretically it shouldn’t matter, because I do know in the abstract that I’m not lazy. But again, I’m clearly not reacting to this specific situation. I don’t even necessarily know yet what situation(s) I am reacting to, but they seem to have influenced me to be reluctant to make myself vulnerable.

3. I have to risk community.

Okay, what if I accept help and, upon realizing that the expected invective is not forthcoming, it turns out the interaction is a good one? In other words, what if I actually make a connection with someone? This is an example of how you need to be careful of what you wish for. So much of the benefit we derive from working out is related to our interactions with other people and the community we join. But in my mind, I also imagine that I am beholden to this person, that some kind of athletic omerta applies, where now I have to help the person who helped me, or some such madness. I know I wouldn’t expect that of anyone I helped. So I have some, um, issues to work through, evidently.

Do any of these reasons resonate with you? Or are there other reasons you’ve historically not been willing to accept help? How might knowing about them help you (and me) process them and move on? Post your thoughts to the comments below.

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