What I learned about asking for help
At the age of 34, I became a single parent. Desperate for financial independence, I decided that the only way I could take care of myself, and my young children, was to acquire a degree. I had to gain the right qualifications to apply to university.
So, I went to my local FE college and successfully undertook a three-year pre-degree programme. Next, it was onto university; after six years, I achieved what I had set out to do, a degree in history and politics.
Living on a tight budget, studying, and raising two children were not without their challenges. I had to be organised and work like a Trojan to fit in all my time, energy, resources, and demands.
I did it despite the emotional pain of overcoming my many fears and anxieties. I was very proud of myself. I am one of seven siblings and the third to gain a degree as a mature student. What an accomplishment!
Finally, I would get a well-paid job and eventually come off benefits and support my small family. However, it was not so easy. I had been out of the job market for a long time; finding the appropriate work was going to be more complicated than I thought.
One day, concerned at the lack of career success (well, finding a full-time job, appropriate to my new degree), I went back to my old FE college, and, chatting with one of my lecturers, he planted the idea of me becoming a tutor.
I had not thought of this as a viable career, but I was willing to give it a shot. So, that was the start of my career as a college lecturer. I gained a teaching qualification as I worked part-time and spent 15 years teaching mature students on various programmes of study and eventually became a departmental manager. I had found my purpose—a teacher.
Reviewing this part of my life has allowed me to remember my positive qualities and grow from my difficulties. My experience of being a mature student and a single parent has taught me many things about myself. I was disciplined, determined, and creative.
I ‘dug deep’ into my inner resources and somehow managed to find the strength of character to achieve meaningful things. The most important lesson I learned about myself was my willingness to ask for help when needed.
I must stress that going back into education as an adult was not easy. I’d forgotten how to study, often: my confidence and self-esteem were at rock bottom. I always asked for help from college lecturers and university professors when I struggled to write academic essays. I asked for help from a counsellor when my emotions threatened to overwhelm me, and I felt like giving up. I asked for help from family and friends when my finances were so crippling I feared I would not continue at university.
Indeed, all the people I reached out to were more than willing to help. Indeed, they were often enthusiastic about offering it.
I learned much from this.
I was brought up not to ask for help. Now I realise it was such a limiting belief to have, and it certainly prevented me in the past from reaching out. I learned that ideas form a core part of our self-concept, and mine was that I was not good enough or too needy. I do not believe that asking for help is wrong or that I am weak.
Needing help is not a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of strength. As the famous quote says: “be strong enough to stand alone, smart enough to know when you need help, and brave enough to ask for it.”
If you need help with ‘crappy’ emotions and are unsure if you dare to ask, I suggest you talk to someone despite the fear you have. Someone you trust who you feel will listen and accept you just as you are. Learning this about myself through connecting with other people has changed my life and how I view the world around me. I no longer feel isolated and alone. My focus on personal development has allowed me to grow emotionally, become more resilient, and deal with stress, anxiety, and overwhelm.