“Independent woman can ask for help sometimes,” a recent, now-viral post on the TwoXChromosomes sub-Reddit explains. In the post that has now garnered 10.8k upvotes since it was shared, user @u/RabidMother wrote about an enlightening conversation she recently had with her 15-year-old daughter who uses a wheelchair.
She wrote: “My 15-year-old daughter recently got a wheelchair for occasional use when feeling weak. She hates being pushed in it, but this morning could barely push herself. I offered to help and she shouted (laughing), 'I'm an independent woman and can do it myself!' So I kept walking while she was barely moving. Then I hear, 'Ummm, mom? Can you push me?' I, teasingly, responded, 'But I thought you were an independent woman?' She replied, 'I AM! But an independent woman can ask for help sometimes!' Even after explaining it, she's still confused why I'm so proud of her for that single sentence!”
Reddit users loved the story, sharing their two cents. One commenter wrote: “Your daughter sounds great, give her a high five for me.” Another commented: “I have two little ladies, both under 11, I want them to be strong independent women as well. There are so many pressures on little girls/young women nowadays, it sounds as if your daughter will be able to sail through it with an attitude like that.”
And mother even another shared a more personal, relatable story: “I'm a disabled veteran, for mental health reasons, and have had to rely on people a lot more than I ever planned. It has been extremely difficult, but I came to a point where I had to give up on the expectations of where I thought I would be at this age. I had to stop comparing myself to what I thought I should be able to do, and just focus on getting stronger/healthier/happier. It took about 5 years for me to stop stressing out about ‘But I should be doing THIS, like them over there!.’ I'm finally there. Happy with who I am, where I am, and willing to take my progression as slowly as it needs to come. Good luck to you!”
Most of the commenters acknowledged that adults, and particularly women, have a hard time with the concept of asking for help. That’s because women are taught not to ask for help—that in an age of feminism, they need to be strong, independent women and, if they appear uncertain or incompetent, it’ll set them back. We’re told that if we don’t ask for what we want, we won’t get what we want. We’re told to lean in—but when we do, we’re told we’re “too bossy.” There are well-documented studies about why women don’t ask for help, and there are even more alarming financial statistics that share the repercussions of that.
To be fair, the headway the women’s movement has made in its agenda thus far is almost entirely because women have “done it themselves.” They’ve marched, voted, demanded and worked their ways up corporate latters to smash glass ceilings—by themselves. We know that women are capable of achieving successes, both big and small themselves. But the problem lies in our expectations that women shouldn’t ever ask for help, even if they can do it themselves.
“Many women whether single mums, married mums, or childfree struggle with the concept of asking for help when they need it — but why do we do it?” reads a story published on LinkedIn by author Carol Stewart. “Once I realized that I fell into this category, I started to question why. I would rather have worked myself flat out than admitted that I needed help. But ladies, you know what, it is OK to ask for help, and asking for help is not a sign of weakness, or a sign that you can’t cope. It does not even have to be a sign that you are not good enough. Many women are being held back in their careers because they will not ask for help.”
She adds that asking for help is not a sign of weakness; rather being able to admit when enough is enough is a sign of strength.
“You can only do so much before you reach the end of your own capabilities,” she writes. “Continuing beyond that is damaging for your health.”
Working mothers should ask for help when they know what to do, but perhaps don’t have the time to do it all. Those dealing with the mother-manager syndrome should ask for help when they’ve work to do, but they’re given unrelated tasks they could delegate to others to share the load. And because studies show that mentors hugely help our success, women of all levels in their careers can ask for help from mentors, too.
“When you need help, ask for it,” writes Forbes contributor, Denise Restauri. “At work, the person who can help you most isn’t always your boss. You may need to go sideways, up and down the organizational chart, but don't be afraid to ask for help. You may find your mentor.”
We may feel expected to be superheroes at times, but the fact is that we’re all just human—and that’s OK.
AnnaMarie Houlis is a multimedia journalist and an adventure aficionado with a keen cultural curiosity and an affinity for solo travel. She's an editor by day and a travel blogger at HerReport.org by night.