Vulnerability: A Practice for Receiving Support

Vulnerability: A Practice for Receiving Support


Asking for help and receiving support is part of taking care of yourself. Don’t have shame!

Lots of people need help right now, and you might be one of them. If you’re unemployed, you might need help paying the rent, buying food, or paying for utilities and medical costs. If you’re at high risk of complications from the virus or disabled and can’t leave the house, you might need someone to bring you supplies.

If you’re suffering from depression, PTSD, anxiety attacks, or other mental and emotional difficulties brought on by social isolation, violence, or uncertainty about the future, you might need to talk to a mental health or spiritual counselor—or at least a caring friend with whom you can share your concerns.

Asking for help is very hard for many of us. You might be ashamed or embarrassed. You might think you should be able to handle this situation on your own. You might pride yourself on being self-sufficient and be unable to admit that you need support. You might associate accepting help with being weak and vulnerable.

My immunocompromised neighbor Amba felt this way too. When the pandemic began, she was afraid to leave her home for fear of exposure to the virus. Friends and family who normally picked up groceries for her were self-quarantining at their homes, and Amba didn’t want to bother them. For nearly two weeks she didn’t have enough food.

Even as her supplies dwindled, she thought she would be able to manage the situation by herself and felt as if it was all her fault for not stocking her pantry properly. As she grew hungry, she considered leaving a note on neighbors’ apartment doors but was embarrassed and ashamed to ask them for help. She finally noticed a Facebook post about a Mutual Aid Network in our neighborhood. When she reached out to them, they delivered several bags of groceries to her apartment.

Wisdom is understanding that none of us live independently. We all rely on help from others all the time. Although most of us don’t like to admit it, every one of us is supported throughout our lives by other people.

As children we were cared for by family, teachers, neighbors, friends, medical professionals, and even strangers. As adults, each moment of our lives is dependent on the efforts of so many others: Our electricity is provided by everyone who works at utility companies, our food is cultivated and distributed by farm workers, and simple necessities such as aspirin, shampoo, and bed linens are made, shipped, and distributed thanks to the work of countless unseen people.

Taking care of yourself means knowing when to ask for help and learning to receive. It might include using all your resources: applying for unemployment, state and federal loans, private grants, and other possible benefits; asking people and organizations in your network to help you get what you need; contacting a therapist, spiritual counselor, or a dear friend to discuss your emotional state. It takes courage to allow yourself to be vulnerable and healthy.

Try the following short practice—it’s one I do when I’m feeling alone and discouraged.

Giving and Receiving

  • Find a quiet spot, put away your devices, close your eyes, and inhale and exhale slowly and deeply a few times.
  • Think of an occasion when someone helped you out—a friend recommended you for a job, a teacher tutored you, a family member listened when you were upset— and silently say “thank you.”
  • Remember a few more of these situations. It could be big, such as a time when someone loaned you a large sum of money, or small, like the time when someone held the elevator for you when you were late to work.
  • Take a moment to remember a time when you helped someone out. You recommended a friend for a job, you tutored someone, you listened to a family member when they were upset—and silently say “thank you” to yourself.
  • Remember a few more of these situations. It could be big, such as if you loaned someone a large sum of money, or small, like the time you held the elevator for someone when they were late to work. Silently say “thank you” to yourself.

Excerpted from Steady, Calm, and Brave: 25 Practices of Resilience and Wisdom in a Crisis Copyright © 2020 by Kimberly Brown. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.

Keep reading: “Stress and the Compassionate Heart.”

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