Topic: Is it easy for you to ask for help when you need it, or do you prefer to rely only on yourself?
I have long been called ‘independent’ and/or ‘overly independent’. I was taught from a young age that if I wanted something done properly, I should do it myself. In school, I always preferred doing my homework individually than in groups, trusting myself more than others. I view my independence as a good thing, but I guess I have had some moments in which one could call me ‘stubborn’. However, in my family we usually associate being ‘stubborn’ as being ‘hard-headed’, a word we tend to give a positive connotation to, being of (mostly) Portuguese descent. Although even my parents call me ‘overly independent’ at times.
I remember one day after school in Grade 11 or so leaving the art room loaded down with a very full backpack, my violin case in one hand, a canvas I was taking home to continue painting in the other and my gym bag hanging off that shoulder, plus my giant Physics 12 workbook perched between one arm and my body. My dad, who had come to pick me up, was walking towards me and immediately offered to take some of my load, but I refused, even though it was nearly 6pm and I had had a long day at school. He chuckled and told me something along the lines of, “don’t be silly, let me help you”, but I didn’t let him change my mind. I told him something along the lines of, “No, these are my things, so I’ll carry them,” even though I was very tired. Knowing me well enough and respecting my decision, he let me continue carrying my own things to his truck.
I don’t even know why I remember that moment, but I do. A moment of me being my “I-can- do-it-myself-thank-you-very-much” self, with no regrets. But there are reasons why I have become independent…
To begin with, I have always been one of the shortest people in my classes at school or in my circles of friends. Up until I was 11, a certain tall girl in my class had the nerve to pat me on the head nearly every time she saw me, pairing it with an annoying comment about how “cute” I was for being little. As if I was a midget or a puppy, or I don’t know what. As if the fact that the top of my head only reached her shoulder made her better than me. I did ask her not to pat me on the head anymore because it bothered me, but she still did so on a regular basis. Oh, how it made my blood boil.
Even now with a height of exactly 5 feet (150cm), I am constantly faced with the potentially frustrating reality of not being able to reach things on high shelves, for example. However, I have come to see such tasks as challenges. Rather than ask for help from someone, I would prefer to grab a chair or box to stand on to be able to retrieve something myself, or jump to grab a ripe fruit off a tree (several times if necessary). And yes, I would rather try to open a tightly sealed jar myself than ask for help. What ticks me off about being petite is that many people seem to think I have zero muscle strength. (And even if I can’t open that jam with pure strength, the good ol’ technique of carefully tapping the lid in order to slowly, but surely, open it never fails).
[On a sort of side not, it also frustrates me that people think it is cool to just literally pick me up off the ground, like they have the right to just grab me around the waist and lift me in the air spontaneously, without even asking for my permission. And sometimes it is friends of friends who I have just met who do it, as if I am some sort of stuffed animal and not an individual being with feelings who should be respected and therefore, consulted in such situations.]
Something else that drives me crazy if that when I am in a serious discussion with someone and start getting passionate about what I am talking about, talking faster and expressing my anger about something, I am practically laughed at; people seem to write off what I am saying by telling me, “you look so cute when you get mad.” They don’t consider what I am saying, they just stop the conversation there, as if I am not capable of defending my opinion. Apparently some people think my height has a direct correlation to my mental capacity.
So yes, I usually prefer to rely on myself for help, even in difficult situations, ones that go beyond not being able to reach a box on a high shelf. My independence stems from being treated as inferior to others while growing up, simply because of my stature. As a young, capable adult, I am continuing more than ever with my habit of being reliant on myself, even as I live in foreign countries on exchanges, and now, on an internship in Peru. I enjoy proving to myself, and other people, that I can indeed accomplish tasks independently, and for me it is a given that if I am going to accomplish them, I am going to do so well.
I tend to learn from my mistakes, so I don’t mind letting myself make them. I would prefer to explore a new place on my own to figure out where things are (and make my own mental notes) than rely completely on others to take me places. So if that means getting slightly disoriented, that’s O.K. Walking new streets and seeing what is on them is usually helpful at a later date, even if I take a few more minutes to get to my destination.
Part of being independent involves accepting one’s responsibilities. I know that if I am behind on a project, it is probably my own fault and therefore, I see myself as responsible for the consequences. Why make someone else suffer because of my lack of planning? There is nothing like being disappointed with one’s own self and a lot of learning can come out of such situations.
Most of the time, I don’t think twice about completing tasks on my own. “Where there is a will, there is a way”, right? But I know that sometimes it is simply more efficient to ask for help that be hard-headed about everything. I am learning in a professional working environment (compared to school group projects) that offering help to and receiving help from one’s colleagues offers a lot of room for growth and learning for all involved.
I appreciate that here in Peru the hardworking team I am apart of at Centro Esperanza, my loving host family and new friends constantly offer valuable advice (or explanations of locally-used words which can’t be found in the dictionary!). This certainly comes in handy for aiding me do things myself later on. I do enjoy receiving help to get established in a new city, in a new country and culture. But I still happy to do things myself; yes, I am petite, but I have a brain, and I am not afraid to use it.