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Who’s caring for the caregivers?

Do you need help?

Ask anyone who works for one of the Help & Hope Southcoast organizations and they’ll direct you to a useful local resource or possibly even offer to help you themselves.

But those same caregivers often say it is a struggle for them to reach out and ask for help for themselves.

“We all know where to go, however when it comes to us, we’re ashamed to ask for help,” one local caregiver said to me.

Individuals who work in mental health or social service fields struggle too, but they often feel they need to put on a strong face when they work with others. They’re reluctant to reach out when they need help themselves, because they feel someone will judge them.

Sadly, fear of judgement keeps many of us from reaching out for assistance, and the fear can be real, according to Dr. Brene Brown, the social work researcher who has led a nation-wide conversation about vulnerability.

For many years, Brown said, her own self-worth came from helping others, but never asking for or accepting help for herself.

In a live Oprah Life Class from 2013, Brown acknowledged the judgement that can come attached to help. After polling the audience for those who were comfortable receiving help versus giving it, she discovered the majority were uncomfortable with asking for help.

Whether we mean it that way or not, that’s judging.

“Here’s the bottom line,” Brown said. “When you cannot accept and ask for help without self-judgement, then when you offer other people help, you are always doing so with judgement. Always. Because you have attached judgment to asking for help.”

It’s a difficult truth to face for those of us who feel ashamed to ask for help; but, it’s one worth examining if only to increase our personal comfort level with receiving help.

For Brown, the upside to accepting help is letting go of the judgment around needing it or giving it. That, she said, is true connection with others.

But it takes being vulnerable.

“When you don’t extract worthiness and you think I’m just helping you because one day I’m going to need help, that’s connection. That’s vulnerability,” said Brown.

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