I’m not a giver, so I try not to take

26 Aug

I don’t ask for help.

Okay, that’s not entirely true. I will, if desperate and can figure out no other solution, ask for help. But only if at proverbial gunpoint. Otherwise, I will figure out how to do things myself. Somehow, I was taught that asking for help was wrong, was weak, was taking. And I should never take.

A couple days ago, another blogger wrote a post – “How to Stop being a Taker” – and I didn’t even make it through the full post title before I was like “Well, I’m good. I never take.”

I never take because it was ingrained in me to do it myself. I also never take because I know the odds of me giving back are low.

This isn’t a healthy attitude. I don’t need my therapist to tell me so. I’ve known it most of my adult life.

The first time I realized it was my freshman year of college, when I was trying to go visit a friend for spring break. I was $50 short in travel money. My friend offered to loan it to me. I said no. I insisted no. I was a bit “Please don’t make me take your money, I don’t know if I can pay you back.”

“OMG Phoebe, just take the damn money.” he said. And then pointed out that if anyone needed money, I was the first to dig through my pockets. When my friend’s grandfather died, I pulled out all my cash to help her get home, trusting that she’d pay me back (which she did.) I could give what I could. But I wouldn’t take.

So my friend forced kindness on me until I relented. He had to remind me that he was doing what I would have done for him. So I took the money.

That wasn’t a light bulb moment where all my ways were changed. 26 years after that moment, I could probably have the same conversation/argument over things as I did then.

I was never the mom-friend who would ask you last minute to watch her kids while she ran an errand. I was not the classroom mom. The idea of volunteering for anything made my stomach churn. Being in someone’s debt was just not how I worked. But I also couldn’t do nothing, so I was the mom who sent in paper plates to every party. I was the mom who dragged four kids everywhere, because I had no other options.

And then I became the mom of the special needs child. The child who I felt I couldn’t leave with people because she was six and in diapers, because she could have a seizure on them.

I was the mom who never asked for help because between the child with special needs and other things, I could never return that help given.

People talk about having villages when you have a child with disabilities. I deliberately moved to the outskirts of the village.



I didn’t want to be labeled a “taker”.

I’d listen to friends, in awe, as they talked about how so-and-so took their kids so they could do something on their own, like go to the ob/gyn or get their eyes checked. It was amazing to me, that they could easily ask someone else to help them out. I did note that they also were the ones saying “Oh, don’t mind the noise, I’m watching my friend’s kids so she can go to the eye doctor alone.”

They took, but they were able to give back.

I had nothing to give.

I felt I had nothing to give, so I never took. Even when offered. “Do you need anything?” they would ask.

“No, I’m fine.”

Lies. I needed help. I just couldn’t ask for it. Wouldn’t ask for it. Refused it when offered.

Jaysus, no wonder I’m so tired.

Being this neurotic isn’t easy. On top of isolating myself, I’m also the one who when I do allow help in, I spend my time worrying over how I can pay the person back adequately. Because I have to be allowed to pay them back, even if they expected nothing in return.

The weird thing is – I like helping others out. I never expect anything back. I may not give you the shirt off my back, but I will happily throw whatever you need your way.

I’m learning. I’m getting there. Maybe by the time I’m 80, I’ll be better at allowing help. Or at least become wise enough to know that at age 80, I’ve earned that help.

If you’ve read this post and thought “Wow, this is SO me” – take my advice. Take the help offered. It won’t make you weak, or a bad person. Give back where you can – even if it’s just a gift card for coffee or a little bouquet of flowers. Then remind me to do the same.




3 Responses to “I’m not a giver, so I try not to take”

  1. Renee Anne August 26, 2017 at 5:16 pm #

    It was not ingrained to not accept help from a young age but it’s the attitude that I have. I think my inability to accept help is because I was finding that people I was supposed to be able to depend on weren’t always dependable (specifically, my father and now-ex stepmother, his parents & stepparents, basically the entirety of my father’s side of the family). If he said he was going to do X, he most likely wouldn’t or he’d do it late or he’d forget and apologize profusely and then forget again. I finally stopped expecting him to be around for anything. It got worse after my half-brother was born because the sun shines out of his ass and it was like that entire side of my family forgot about my existence. And then, when I was 21, the rug was totally pulled out from under me when my mom died and I had to do everything myself. It’s hard even now, after eight years of marriage and two kids, to let my husband do certain things because I’m so used to just doing them (laundry, dishes, mowing the lawn…)……..and we were so isolated when we first moved here that I didn’t have anyone else.

    But on the giving side…if I could, I’d give you the shirt off my back. I “loaned” my best friend $1000 over 5 years ago and I’ve yet to see a dime and I’m not worried about it. I had a friend that was getting kicked out of her apartment with her newborn and I told her they could move in with me until she got herself back in order (she didn’t take me up on it – she moved back home with her mom, which didn’t go very well)…I’ve done all that.

    I’m getting better about letting go and allowing help but it’s still deeply ingrained. It’s really hard and it sucks. I have so been there.

  2. Angel of Anthropology August 27, 2017 at 3:15 pm #

    I hate asking for help, not because it was ingrained in me, but because I am stubborn and I love to prove to people that I can do things on my own very well thank thee much! Not sure who I am proving this to, if I’m honest. Hubby quickly learned to stay out of my way but keep an eye on me in case I might need help for which I won’t ask.

  3. Zee December 5, 2017 at 5:24 pm #

    I like thinking of this whole thing as some kind of cosmic karma bank. I don’t have to keep track of “how much” I owe any one specific person – as long as I would do the same for SOMEONE. I learned this in my 12-Step program for families of addicts. I had to go to a very difficult doctor’s appointment, so I asked one of my 12-Step friends to take me. She ended up driving me there because my new meds were making me dizzy. She got a babysitter so she could help me.

    I’ve never had a chance to “pay” HER back in “full” – although I did babysit her kids one time last-minute. Not nearly equal, IMO. But I would totally take someone else to the doctor if they needed it.

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