Being helpless isn’t much fun. After all, you have no independence and are reliant on others for almost everything. However, there are some surprising lessons to be learned from being rendered helpless…at least if it’s for a short period of time.
I realize that some people are dependent on others for everything and for long stretches of time—sometimes their entire lives. Most often, this is due to a physical ailment. And I acknowledge that a long-term state of helplessness is not desired.
But in short bouts, helplessness can be an experience that helps you grow and learn in a variety of ways.
My Bouts of Helplessness
I don’t particularly like being helpless. It means I can’t do what I want when I want using my own abilities. I’m dependent on others, which means I’m not free.
I value freedom and independence…a lot!
Plus, I don’t like asking for help. I assume others don’t want to help or that doing so inconveniences them. I figure they’ve got better things to do.
Maybe you can relate.
I’ve found myself somewhat (if not totally) helpless a few times in my life. The first was when I tore my ACL and had to have surgery to repair it. The second was when I did the exact same thing. The third was when I dislocated my shoulder and then sprained my back. The fourth was when I recently broke my ankle. (I experienced the shoulder, back, and ankle issues all during the course of the last six months of 2023.)
Granted, I had the ability to do some things for myself, but not all. I needed help preparing food, getting to and from the bathroom, onto a chair, into the bed, and picking things up off the floor. I also required assistance getting dressed and showering.
Each time, the experience of helplessness has been humbling and uncomfortable. But the most difficult part was asking for help…and feeling okay about receiving that help no matter how the “helper” responded to my requests or needs.
Lessons Learned from Being Helpless
That brings me to the lessons learned from helplessness. If you’ve ever experienced helplessness, maybe you can relate to them.
If you haven’t ever been rendered helpless, good for you! However, you can still learn these lessons. I’m not recommending you find a way to make yourself helpless, like get injured. I am suggesting that you make helplessness a personal growth exercise.
When I participated in Sondra Ray’s Loving Relationship Training, she suggested that we take a “Helpless Day.” This involves enlisting a friend or friends and family to take care of you for 24 hours. You pretend you are like a baby—totally helpless. Others have to feed, bathe, and clothe you—even handle your bathroom needs.
If, like me, you are someone who never asks for help and feel as if you must do everything yourself and for yourself, try this exercise. Be helpless for a day and reliant on others. Learn to ask for what you want and need, and allow yourself to be taken care of by others.
Scary, right? Uncomfortable, for sure!
But you will learn something from this exercise.
Lesson 1: Learn to ask for help.
This lesson seems simple, but it’s much more complex than meets the eye. If you don’t like asking for help, learning to do so is a huge accomplishment.
Learning this lesson requires being courageous enough to ask—for anything. Then, practice asking until it becomes easy.
You could ask for a dollar from a stranger or a ride from a friend. Or you could ask your friend to help you clean out your closet or a famous author to provide a testimonial for your book. It doesn’t matter what you ask for; what matters is that you ask.
2. Learn to allow yourself to be supported.
Those of us who are used to doing it all ourselves typically don’t allow others to help us. We don’t want to be supported because we see this need as a weakness.
Here’s the thing: When you stand in your power and ask for what you want or need, you are strong. You aren’t coming from a poor-me attitude but from a mindset of being able to ask for support and be supported.
The most successful people in the world ask for support. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t have employees, coaches, or advisors.
And knowing when you need support—and asking for it—makes you stronger. It allows you to lean on others when necessary to move forward.
3. Learn to let others love and care for you.
Learning to let others love and care for you demonstrates that you feel worthy and deserving of support, care, and love. But the real lesson is usually in feeling worthy and deserving of that support, care, and love.
You were worthy and deserving of support, care, and love when you were born. Your mother and father took care of you before you could even ask with words for what you wanted.
Nothing has changed. You are still a pure soul who deserves to be loved and cared for. You are worthy of all the support you need.
4. Learn you don’t have to do it all yourself.
Some people—me included—don’t like delegating any type of task. They are convinced only they can do it right or as well as they expect.
But when you have to let others do things for you, you learn that it’s possible to let others do the things you normally do. You don’t have to do it all yourself.
In fact, sometimes it’s nice to let others do things…and to see that they might be able to do it better!
5. Learn how to receive.
One of the largest lessons you can learn from helplessness is to receive. You may have asked for help, but actually allowing others to help is a different story.
If you feel angry, ungracious, uncomfortable, or irritated by the love, care, and support you receive upon asking, you need to practice receiving. Again, maybe you don’t feel worthy or deserving of help, and you need to work through that.
6. Learn to allow others to have their feelings about helping.
Finally, when you are helpless, it’s important not to allow other’s feelings about helping to influence you. Sometimes, people help out of a sense of obligation. Or they express anger or irritation while helping. They may feel resentful or overwhelmed by your requests.
All of that can make you feel pretty lousy—and guilty—about asking for help in the first place. This is a huge opportunity to clear out your emotions and beliefs about asking for and receiving help.
Also, keep in mind that their emotions have nothing to do with you…and everything to do with them. You are helpless. You asked for help. They agreed to help. Whatever they feel about that is their internal issue to resolve—not yours. (And it’s highly likely they never ask for help but wish someone would lend them a hand.)
Let go of your reactiveness to their emotional state. Stop interpreting it to mean something about you. And instead, explore why their behavior and attitude influence how you feel about yourself.
Then, offer heaps of gratitude for the help they provide.
From Helpless to Stronger
When you learn these six lessons, you will find yourself feeling stronger—even if you are still helpless. And you’ll never again feel afraid to ask for what you need—or to receive that love, care, and support.
You’ll also realize that asking for help…and receiving it is a way to express self-love. And the more you love yourself, the stronger you become.
Have you ever had an experience of helplessness? What did you learn? Tell me in a comment below. qNE Please share this post with a friend or on social media.
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Photo courtesy of michalludwiczak.