I. Need. Help.: A Black Woman Surrenders

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By Sharisse Kimbro

Can three scarier words be spoken, especially by a black woman?

I. Need. Help.

You need help. We all need help at one time or another. Life is hard. None of us can make it on our own. Challenges come knocking to everyone’s door. Knowing this universal truth, why is it so hard to ask for help? Why are we so committed to suffering in silence and pretending that everything is always okay, even when at times, it is so terribly not.

Is it that we have all bought into a collective myth of hyperbolic achievement—of being “super” -- Superwoman or Supermom or Superwhatever to the point that we are embarrassed to raise our hand and admit that we aren’t really Super at all, that we don’t have it all together, that, in fact,

We. Need. Help.

Maybe we are afraid that if we ask for help, if we admit that we cannot do it all, all by ourselves, that those we ask will think less of us, or will interpret our request for assistance as a sign of weakness. Or perhaps, our greatest fear is that our request for help will be flatly denied. “No, I will not help you.” “No, I cannot help you.” “I see you in a state of vulnerability and need and I refuse to provide you with the assistance that you seek.” So in our fear, we remain silent and we hold our tongues instead of reaching out to admit to another person that

I. Need. Help.

Where did this reticence to share our wounds, our hurt, and sorrow come from? Could it have been from our mothers and grandmothers and great-grandmothers for whom sadness and pain and sorrow were luxuries they could not afford to fully experience because they were too busy working, rearing, struggling and surviving? Could it have been that we, as black women, have always been so committed to ensuring everyone else was okay—our mothers, brothers, fathers, daughters, or sons—that we simply forgot how to ask?

No matter the root of this habit, the results are devastating. Heart disease. Diabetes. Stress. Depression. Ulcers. Physical, emotional and spiritual exhaustion. Anger. Self-medication with food, alcohol, sex, bad relationships, gossip, or religion (yes I said it). By refusing to ask for help when we need it, by shouldering everyone’s burdens and toiling to make life work for others, we drain and deplete ourselves. We neglect ourselves. We stuff and suppress the complete truth of our lives. We keep our heads down and keep going, keep working, keep caring and keep giving. Until we don’t anymore. Until we can’t anymore because

We. Need. Help.

And then we become shells of ourselves. We are only a shadow of the vibrant, alive, healthy, beautiful souls we were intended to be. We walk around in parallel paths of unspoken sadness, never reaching out to one another, never sharing our stories, feeling isolated and alone, never understanding or availing ourselves of the transformative power of the feminine bond because we have lost the words to even articulate the fact that

We. Need. Help.

How liberating would it be to admit to ourselves and each other that we cannot do it on our own, everything is not perfect and we are not “Super” anything (at least not all the time) and ask for the help we need?

Sure, there is a risk. There is the chance that you will be judged, mistreated, ignored or denied, but there is also the awesome possibility that the request will be met with grace, kindness and humility and the result will be liberation for both parties.

The recipient of the request is encouraged because her sister trusts her enough to ask for help. The woman who asks for help provides the other woman with a glimpse behind the false shield of perfection. In that intimate sharing, both women can exhale in the knowledge that neither one of them is alone, that everyone needs help sometimes, and the two can be bonded in a mutual spirit of increased understanding. After all, who doesn’t want to be seen/heard/felt/received? We all do.

Let’s decide in our generation that every woman can lay her burdens down, that we can share the load and no one will be put-down for not being able to do everything all at once. Instead, let’s finally admit to each other and ourselves that

I. Need. Help.

And get it.

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