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I have a confession to make: I’ve always been bothered at the thought of anybody thinking I need help.

I’m the kind of person who will sit through an entire class thoroughly confused about the lesson, but won’t let on that I’m lost. Do you remember the girl in school who had a question about every inch of the material? After she asked her third or fourth question, most of the students in the class would let out a deep sigh, roll their eyes or smirk at the sight of her hand going up yet again. She wasn’t doing anything wrong by asking all of those questions in the hopes of understanding what we were learning, but based on the reactions of my classmates, I slowly started to realize that asking for help could be seen as a sign of weakness.

I don’t think we’re ever really taught to look at the idea of seeking assistance as some sort of shortcoming, but I do think that many of us were made to believe that in order to be strong, you need to figure things out on your own. But when we fail to ask for help when we really need it, we’re only hurting ourselves. In the classroom, the greatest consequence we face when we decide not to ask for help is a possible failing grade, but what are the consequences in our personal lives when we allow ourselves to suffer in silence?

This past week I was explaining to my godmother that I’d been juicing fruits and veggies for myself and my fiance in order to save the few groceries we had left in our home for our children to eat. Times were hard. I’d seen my godmother every day during that time and we had full-length conversations about life in general, but I never mentioned to her that I was in need. My godmother has been like a second mom to me, so when she asked, “Why didn’t you tell me?” I couldn’t think of a sensible answer. Why didn’t I tell the person who had always been there for me that I could use their help?

Speaking from my personal experiences, I think many people feel that asking for help is admitting that they’ve found themselves in a situation they can’t overcome alone. Nobody wants to be seen as a person who can’t hold their own. We may also think that being in a position where we need assistance makes us inferior to the person we’re asking. And we may have asked the wrong person in the past for help, and the idea of putting ourselves out there and being vulnerable is what’s holding us back from doing it again. In a society where being picture-perfect is the standard, the slightest sign of weakness could make a person feel like needing help is something to be ashamed of. And while being self-reliant is an honorable thing, there is nothing weak about knowing when you need to put your pride aside and ask for a helping hand.

When we’re experiencing difficult times, many of us start to compare our situations with those around us and feel ashamed. Comparison mixed with fear will keep us from reaching out for help even when it’s in our best interest to do so. But when we’re hesitant to ask for help, a bad situation can grow worse and worse, and you don’t get brownie points for suffering when you don’t have to.

We should remember not to judge ourselves (and others) for the reasons why we find ourselves in a situation where we need support. There isn’t a person on earth that is immune to hard times. And while we should try and handle our responsibilities on our own, when we no longer can, it’s time to stop suffering in silence and know that there’s strength in speaking up.

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