I said yes to brownies. You’re probably thinking, “Who doesn’t say ‘yes’ to brownies?” I am a chocolate junkie, it’s true, but in this case, the brownies were a gesture of kindness from someone, a little token to say, “I am thinking about you and I care about what you are going through.” They were made by someone who is a kinda-sorta friend, someone I know because we have friends in common, and we see each other around a lot. We have the type of friendship that exists in the way that only the internet makes friendships possible- somehow both genuine, yet not quite real. Recently, I ran into her after a meeting with my minister who had just told me to widen my circle of support. This made my encounter with her feel serendipitous. She offered support, so I said yes. And a couple of weeks later, when she texted me, wanting to do something helpful, I said yes again.
When someone offers their help to me, it is really hard for me to say yes. I so seldomly accept help, that I usually don’t even bother to think about what is being offered. I instantly go for, “No thanks, I’m fine.” Something within me automatically assumes the offer was just a courtesy; I’m convinced my acceptance of it will be burdensome. The thing is, though, this doesn’t really make sense. When I think of this in reverse, when I am the one doing the offering, I sincerely mean it. I don’t offer because I feel morally obligated. And I wouldn’t offer at all if it were really going to create a problem for me. Surely the same is true for everyone else?
These past couple of months I have been overwhelmed by the amount of support that has come my way. I have been telling myself to accept it because divorce is too big to go through alone. Yet I still find myself saying no far too often. I know this issue is not unique to me, as I know many women find it hard to accept help. There have been countless times when I have offered to help a friend and have been given the “No thanks, I’m fine” answer. I am not certain why so many of us struggle with this, but I suspect it comes from all of the things we say (both directly and indirectly) to little girls: Look pretty. Be polite. Decorate in pink. Be smart. Don’t get angry. Be quiet. Only play with toys that are pastel colored. Smile. Try to look like that girl on TV. Don’t eat anything that will make you fat. Dress sexy, but not too sexy. Your feelings don’t matter as much as everyone else’s.
I am willing to admit that personality may be a factor in my discomfort with accepting help, but the more I think about it, the more convinced I become that this is a cultural problem, not necessarily a personal one. I have come to believe that so many women don’t accept help because we have been conditioned to think we shouldn’t. We are so focused on how it may inconvenience others, so worried about how we may be perceived, so uncomfortable going from the nurturer to the one in need of nurturing, that we end up saying no to the things we really want or need. This is such a disservice. Aside from preventing our loved ones from meaningfully demonstrating their care for us, we deny ourselves the opportunity to receive that care. Excuse me if I sound melodramatic, but everyone deserves and needs to feel cared for. Every one of us is worthy of that.
As offers of help keep coming my way, I am going to try my best to feel less awkward in accepting them. I am really, really glad that I said yes to the brownies. They were truly the best I have ever tasted.