Amanda’s Ted Talk back in 2013 “bulldozed a road down the center of my mind.” It resonated with one of those amazing “yeses” that occur when you come across a piece of profound truth. Her book expounds more fully on the art of asking, part memoir, part musical interlude, it’s a study in intimacy, vulnerability, artistry, connection and what it’s like to date Neil Gaiman – as much as it is strictly about learning how to ask.

However, as this reviewer points out, there is some nuance that is missing from Amanda’s discussion; particularly around who in our society is “allowed” to ask for help and the communities which may be more or less capable of providing support. (i.e. non-privileged communities)

If you expected Amanda to provide an academic MECE analysis of the pros and cons of asking, then you are going to be disappointed—as I suspect you often are. The book should be read with an artistic sensibility and is an exploration of one person’s truth.

That said, I think it’s insightful. In fact, it may be helpful to control for other limits. Learning to ask for what you want is one of the greatest determinants of success. Simply put if you don’t ask, you don’t get.

Just to layer in the working-class angle. Here is my perspective as an artist who grew up both female and working-class – i.e. poor with a handicapped self-esteem. Below are 5 other reasons asking for help is difficult.

5 Reasons (besides shame) why people who grew up kinda poor, don’t ask for help

  1. We’re the helpers. When my folks split up my brother, mom and I moved to a tiny roach-infested apartment on the other side of town. Even then we had a hard time making ends meet on a secretary’s salary. Not helping out with my paltry after-school salary, never even occurred to me. As a consequence I,
  2. Learned not to want much. I quickly realized that you only need so much, and when I got a scholarship to college, wanting more felt greedy. After all, I already had far more opportunities than others and besides,
  3. Rejection hurts. When you are foolish enough to ask for something and your “community” can’t or won’t help you, it hurts and you learn to take,
  4. Pride in self-reliance. Because you can do anything on your own, you don’t have (m)any mentors so you often do it the hard way, besides asking for respite,
  5. Feels like cheating. You don’t ask for extensions or workarounds because you don’t feel entitled to special favors and frankly you kind of resent rich, entitled pansies who do.

The problem with learning such self-sufficiency is, life is better when we are not alone. It makes you tough, but sometimes a bit too tough. Life doesn’t need to be so hard and just because you can grind it out, doesn’t mean you should. Why recreate the wheel when you can get a cheap one from craigslist?

So how do you learn to “get over it”

First, give yourself some love. I used to cry every time I thought about asking for what I was worth or for something I really needed. Asking for help dregs up a lot of emotional baggage. If you feel the same go ahead and cry but also congratulate yourself for deciding to change. Next go seek out mentors, coaches, friends, communities, advocates, and either ask (or pay) someone to help you practice asking for help. Read books on the subject, meditate on your issues, figure out what you want, learn to want more.  Most importantly, put yourself out there and practice. I promise it gets easier.

One Comment on “The Underrated Art of Asking

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