How to Accept Help (Even When You Don't Want To)

There’s no person alive—at Kenyon or anywhere else—who doesn’t need support from others from time to time. Their friends, their family (even if they’re far from home), and even their hallmates can be great resources. Sometimes, you need a deep talk, on the phone or in person. Sometimes, you need someone to walk with you to Peirce or to the library. Sometimes, you need someone to distract you for a while, so you can forget about whatever it is that’s hurting. Sometimes, you just need someone to give you a hug.

Most of the time, though, it’s really hard to accept that help, and it’s even harder to ask for it. Recently, my boyfriend and I broke up. It sucked. As a well-adjusted and emotionally reserved person, I was dealing with it pretty well. (I also had a ton of homework to distract me, which is typical of Kenyon.) One night, after a trip to the Market for what would become my weekly supply of chocolate, I was just ready to hole up in my room and drown my sorrows in orange tea and an art history essay. That didn’t happen, though.

Just like any other group of friends, the circle I had become a part of last semester had a disagreement. Unfortunately, it had to happen over text. At first, I just watched the texts come in, reading the argument as a way to distract myself from feeling down about my breakup. After a while, though, I felt the need to backup my friend, who was being seriously misunderstood and facing some harsh words because of it. Although our comments were never hurtful or closed-minded, they were misconstrued, and, as a result, things in the group chat—and in real life—became very tense.

At this point, I was feeling the most depressed I had felt in a long, long time. I had lost my boyfriend and a couple of close friends, and I felt like I had no one to turn to. I felt really alone.

I was wrong, though. While I had been throwing myself pity parties, my friends were sending me messages of love and support. Because it was so hard to even work up the energy to go to class, I didn’t do the best job of responding. I really appreciated, though, all the kind words from my friends, and, eventually, I realized that it might be better to take them up on their offers than to isolate myself.

One of the reasons I don’t have much experience accepting help from others is that I don’t want to inconvenience them or come off as imposing. This is a feeling that everyone deals with, but we all have different ways of coping. My mom, for example, is an expert at determining when to politely decline an offer and when to accept the help. (If this comes from age and experience, it makes sense that I’m not very good at it.) I think that one of the biggest challenges college students face in “adulting” is how to deal with others when we’re in need. It’s hard to open up and make yourself vulnerable to others, especially if you aren’t used to it. It’s something that has to be done, though, and it’s something I forced myself to do.

Slowly, I started responding to the messages and letting the people who sent them help me. I went to lunch with a friend, another helped me do my laundry, and another sat on my bed and just watched music videos with me.​One of the best things about accepting help from these people (on top of the fact that being around friends is just unequivocally good for you) is that it’s brought me so much closer to those who offered me their shoulder to cry on. While some of my friendships have been seriously shaken, others have strengthened, and I’m so thankful for that. I’m also thankful that I can see myself as someone who doesn’t always need to be alone. Though these days are still tough, I know now that I can trust others to help me, and I know that I don’t have to go through it on my own.

Recently, the roles were reversed, and I was able to help one of my friends with something she was struggling to process. I hugged her when she needed it, went to Peirce with her, and just let her talk to me. That made me realize how much of a difference she made in my life when I was in her shoes. By opening ourselves up to help, we can develop better relationships with those who help us—and with ourselves.

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