Learning How to Ask for Help: Story of Bridget M.
" I think a lot of us have a fear of asking for help, but after getting such a good reaction from you it sort of helped dissolve our fears. Oh if everyone is going to be like Yi when we ask for help then everything is going to be okay. "
— Bridget M. —
Learning how to ask for help was something really new to Bridget. To many that knew Bridget, this would be surprising, at least to all of us at EFC. Bridget was a fantastic straight A student that worked her very best in every aspect of her personal and academic life. She had plenty of self-awareness and did not lack self-advocacy skills. So when we asked Bridget what she learned the most from us, her response was surprising. She explained to us that she had a fear of asking for help. When Bridget was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease in 2016 that left her in fatigue, she felt overwhelmed at the ideas of college prep. She had so many things competing for her time and a lack of organizational skills that she had no idea how to get it all done. And like all students, she didn’t know how to ask for help without feeling like she was being a burden.
Reflecting back to Bridget’s first college lesson with us, we can now see that she really did struggle with how to ask for help. At first, we just thought Bridget needed to warm up to us, and that patience was the key. However, we soon realized that we had to motivate Bridget in a very special way. Bridget left her first session frustrated by her self advocacy skills. In the beginning of the lesson, Bridget was on fire. She had great self-awareness to what she understood and didn’t understand, and for the most part she was asking plenty of challenging questions. Then towards the end of the lesson, exhaustion set in and she began to shut down. Then, Bridget’s fear of asking for help set in. She didn’t know how to process her question, and she was scared that she was being a burden. We were having fun answering, but for Bridget, she didn’t know how to ask for help anymore.
So for Bridget, she struggled with the question “how to ask for help if I am at my limits.” At some point, her executive functioning capacity burned out, and she wasn’t able to make the decision of what she needed to ask next. Working with Bridget was about improving her self-awareness around her executive functions associated with fatigue. It was okay to be great on some days and be really burnt on other days. Recognizing that and having the self advocacy skills to tell others was one of her biggest milestones. Timelining and laying objectives out was equally important. It helped Bridget visualize her goals into something that was doable for her. And whenever we felt like her fear of asking for help was setting in, we would take a break, recap her goals and end the session earlier. Soon, she began to understand “how to ask for help” meant expressing to others that she was at her limits for the day.
Today, Bridget is a 2nd year at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) and knows “how to ask for help.” She knows how to utilize her school resources and self advocacy skills to get the help she needs. She no longer has a fear of asking for help and knows when she is at a healthy limit. There was a time when she never thought that independence was going to be possible for her, and, well, we are so proud of her for accomplishing that feat. If you are not sure how to ask for help, just give it a try, you might be surprised at what will come out of it.