“Don’t worry about it.”
“I’m alright, but thanks.”
These are phrases I used to repeat a lot in my everyday life. Whether it was a project or some homework I was struggling with, I always resisted saying ‘yes’ to a little help.
Back in secondary school, I was assigned a teaching assistant for most of my lessons, stepping in whenever I got distracted.
Sometimes my assistants had to intervene when other pupils were misbehaving and I reveled in those moments when I was free to do my own thing. Because I struggled, looking out of the window was more enticing.
Unfortunately, when the teaching assistants came back, I found myself still not wanting to work – but this time out of spite.
It wasn’t long before I began to resent my helpers, despite them only doing their job. So I ignored them as they prompted me, in an attempt to prove to them, to my mum and to myself that I didn’t need help.
I pretended they weren’t there as they told me to focus. It was easier to see them as a problem than to believe the issue was with me.
Putting a padlock on my mind left it no room to grow. It was only once I turned the key and let others in that they were able to help me become better.
I was in denial, not wanting to be treated differently, which I feared I would be if I accepted help.
Being told I needed assistance when the other pupils didn’t made me feel like I was objectively worse. The lessons I struggled most in were French and Physics. In French I often wasn’t able to remember the word order of sentences and in Physics all the talk of symbols and volts never stuck.
I remember in Year 10 when I did my mocks: Ds and Es. I was beyond annoyed, but as the low marks continued and I started using a laptop in my lessons, I realised something: I wasn’t the only one who needed help. I’d see other pupils coming and going from the Teaching Assistants’ office. One of these pupils became a close friend of mine. We were both quite slow at handwriting as well as needing helpers in lessons.
I realised that the contempt I had for my helpers was unnecessary, holding me back and making their jobs harder. I was still annoyed by their help, but I accepted it more. It took me a while to fully get used to it but, acknowledging my issues and actually accepting help myself, has made me a much better learner.
Why is grasping all the helping hands offered so difficult for so many?
One reason is pride. In a subject you particularly enjoy, or have found easy thus far, it can be surprising coming across an aspect you’re having a little trouble in.
But when you’re stuck, insisting always that you can do it by yourself isn’t helpful. A second opinion can be very valuable.
For some the issue can be about trust, and not wanting to show your vulnerable side. For a lot of young people it’s difficult to open up initially to people they don’t know, as showing they have problems can be unsettling.
But when it’s your family and friends, those close to you, offering support, you know it saves time and effort. The same applies to people who are there to help.
Even if you don’t want help, you’ll need it eventually. Why hurt yourself like that?
If you like your solitude, that’s fine. But don’t shoot yourself in the foot by rejecting assistance.
I don’t do that any more… In my Additional Science GCSE I was able to get a B/C overall instead of the D/E I got in the mocks.