Those three little words

Those three little words

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I moved through the kitchen banging pots and slamming cupboards and when one of my children asked me something, the cork holding my anger inside popped and I spoke harshly in response to whatever they were asking.

It was a normal day in our house, as far as I can remember. These days normal is different than past days. I have a part-time job that keeps me occupied five hours a day outside of the house while my husband continues his full-time job three days a week. We’ve been doing this for a couple of months now and we are not always handling it well. I think what had gotten to me on this day was that I was in the midst of making dinner but all I could see with my eyes were the things that still needed to be done. Dirty dishes had piled up. The right kinds of clothes had not been washed. I was feeling overwhelmed and I could have saved myself the blow-up if only I had been willing to utter those three little words:

I need help.

Later that same day, my husband even said to me, “I wish you would just ask me for help.” Why I don’t ask for help is layered and complicated, but I suspect I’m not the only one who sometimes needs help and doesn’t ask for it.

Can you relate?

Why do we do this to ourselves?

I have some thoughts. This simple phrase is not as simple as it appears.

I need help.

Me, personally. Not someone else. Saying these words makes us vulnerable to someone else.

I need help.

Oh, how some of us enjoy being needed by others, but when we are the ones in need, it’s a different story. I don’t know what it’s like for you, but when I’m in the one in need, I tell myself all sorts of things like if you ask for help, you’re weak. You should be able to do this by yourself. What’s wrong with you? No one else needs help. (Spoiler alert: these are lies.)

I need help. Help. An admission of weakness, yes, but nothing to be ashamed of. Help means we’re in over our heads (like if we were literally drowning, we would call for help) or we lack the skills to get ourselves out of a mess (like if the house was on fire, we could call for help to put it out. These are extreme examples.)

Asking for help costs us something. I see it with my students at school. Before they knew me and knew that I could help them, they declined most of my attempts at help. Even now, raising a hand and asking for help seems like a chore. They don’t want to admit their need for help any more than I do.

Sometimes it takes someone recognizing I need help for me to accept help. Some months I drag myself to my therapist’s office not really sure I want to be there or what I want to talk about but knowing that it’s the right move. And often she will pick up on something I’m saying and help me work through why I said it or what thoughts led to that. Maybe more of us need to have our ears and eyes tuned to the needs of others, even if the needs aren’t obvious.

I need help. You need help. We all need a little help now and then, and sometimes we need a lot more help. It’s okay. We’re in this thing called life together.

Let’s not be afraid to ask for help.

Lisa Bartelt About Lisa Bartelt

Lisa has been writing stories for more than a decade, first for newspapers and now as a freelancer, blogger and budding novelist. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two kids. Read more at her blog, Beauty on the Backroads.


  1. Kristin Bunting says:

    Thank you, Lisa, for speaking the truth to all of us women! I so often wait to ask for help (or just don’t) and then become angry that nobody stepped in without my asking. It really is more humble to ask in the first place, isn’t it? We’re so used to being the needed ones, we don’t like it when the tables are turned…

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