Is Asking for Help a Sign of Weakness?

Karen Madej

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What is the label for someone who has asked for help a handful of times in her whole life?

Proud. Strong. Self-sufficient. At times, I've thought each of them. Which would you choose?

The way our parents raised us plays a major role in the way we live our lives as adults.

My parents demonstrated a career-oriented lifestyle. Dad worked long days and spent hours out of work locked in his darkroom developing his photos.

He did also take us to work with him on Saturday mornings. My sister and I would get dizzy twirling in the office chairs. If we were good he’d take us to the pub afterwards.

He brought bottles of Coca Cola and packets of prawn cocktail crisps out to the car for us. We’d sit in the car park of the pub with the car doors open. Dad never drank alcohol. Instead, he joined us with the sugary secret recipe fizzy-pop.

Our stepmom slaved away in the kitchen, baking marble cake, apple cake, making sure she fed her family well. Dad would inhale each and every meal with gusto.

She also worked, but part-time. 'My money is mine and your Dad's is both of ours' was her favourite motto.

Somehow being self-sufficient is what life gave me.

A twenty-year career for a communications company set me up for later life and retirement.

Sometimes, though, no matter how self-sufficient we are, we have to ask for help.

A few years back my debts caught up with me. Running away because you have no money is no long-term solution. The handling of my income has never been a strong suit.

When there was plenty I spent it. When I had little or none, I borrowed and squandered it.

When I inherited from the death of my stepmom, I paid off my ex-boyfriend’s debts.

The company I worked for offered me redundancy a few years later. I invested the pay off in off-plan properties in foreign countries. What I left untouched was the mortgage on my home.

I walked away from my foreign properties in 2009. After the financial crisis of 2008, paying €500 per month on no income wasn’t an option.

The debts I left behind in a city for two years found me when I returned to live there. The friends I made there meant so much to me that it was like going home. In the time I’d been away, the debts had grown.

The lawyers added their fees and I owed almost double what I’d abandoned. Believe me, I would have paid them if I could.

I went from no job to scraping by on £200 a month for three months. This situation only worked because a white knight offered me a rent-free place to live in for half a year.

Three months in, I landed on my feet with a €23.50 per hour teaching gig. Working from home online, I found the freedom to work anywhere in the world.

Back to the debts

A very good friend of mine agreed to my plea for help. Four years ago, she transferred the amount I’d negotiated with the help of a lawyer to my bank account.

According to the spreadsheet payments we’d agreed on, I have almost paid off my debt to her. The last year has been impossible, though, with no spare income.

Only when I’d painted myself into a corner did I find the courage to ask for help.

You could call me a resourceful person. My creative solutions solve most of the sticky situations I find myself in. No matter how strong, prideful or self-sufficient one is, we all need a friend in our corner with us.

Years ago, life became too stressful to sustain perfection. Being perfect is difficult and most of the time unnecessary, often impossible.

These days, good enough is fine by me.

To me, a relaxed approach to living, sharing, and asking for help every now and then is a strength.

Strength is trusting someone other than myself.

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Passionate about climate change and living a debt-free, sustainable life. Determined to learn how to and build an adobe house or Earthship. The goal is to live off-grid and off the land. Energy for heat and to power electrical devices and appliances will use solar, wind, and hydro-powered electricity. No trees will die to make my home.

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