As a black woman, I have been accustom to NOT asking for help. "Don't worry about it. I've got it," is typical language for a woman of color, especially in America. This country was built on the backs of brown girls whether we were in the house caring for the maidens (a la Gone with the Wind) or whether we were in the fields picking cotton, we've grown accustom to doing what needed to be done without complaint. Swallowing our pain and nursing our own wounds away from the eyes of the ones that need us the most becomes regular practice. This is a poison that keeps us out of our radiance and power.
I see it in all my "women of color" friends and my girlfriend. This is generational, it's ancestral and it's something that was placed into our cells. Whether it's in our businesses, relationships or in the workplace we don't ask for what we need which keeps us NOT getting it. Now, I am not saying there isn't real fear or statistics to back up why we don't ask. However, the fact of the matter is, a lot of us don't.
We are so comfortable in taking care of others, being their support and saying, "No No. I will take the scraps after everyone else has eaten." Even when we think we aren't doing it, we still do in some area of our lives. There's something in some of us that thinks asking comes with a price tag attached to it. If we don't have enough for ourselves, how in the world are we going to add a cost to that? Or sometimes we just think, "Well I'm not going to get it, so what's the point?" Or perhaps even, "I don't need anyone. I can do it by myself. Not because I want to, but I have to." We call this cute terms like, "perfectionism" or being a "workaholic," which are accepted ways of being in our society. However, it's really a sense of unworthiness.
I struggled with this myself. I was taught from an early age to take care of myself. This meant that I was afflicted with the "I can take care of it" syndrome. In fact, I built two companies on this ideology (a law firm and an online business education company for artists) from my own blood, sweat and tears. In three short years we made over half a million dollars. This was from sheer will, determination, working 12-16 hour days, six days a week and never buying anything for myself or paying myself. I put every dime I had back into growing the company. However, not asking for what I needed or charging my worth left my company completely dry. The more money came in, the more money went out. This is often the life of a service-based startup that runs on a dollars-per-hour model like most attorneys do.
Then at the end of 2015, I suffered burn out. The extreme kind. I could barely do anything. Hardly get out of bed, and I realized that not asking for help was killing me. Literally. Something had to give.
I could not do this alone anymore. I needed help. I needed to ask. It was a 911 situation. But how? How could I do that? I come from a ancestral background of women that handle it all. They take care of it and if you don't, you're a failure. I kept thinking, "I can do this," "Don't worry about it. I've got it." However, I didn't.
Two major contracts fell through. This was supposed to be my team salaries, rent and bills for the next 3-4 months. I cleared my calendar for this. Now, I was at rock bottom. No choice. I HAD to ask.
Again, afflicted with this curse of the brown girl mentality, my body was infused with shame, guilt, fear, vulnerability and the fact that my entire empire was built on my being able to "handle it all." What the heck? I was just featured in the January issue of Forbes and I don't even have enough money to pay my team! I had to yield my power in a whole new way. I had to find power in being vulnerable and surrender to the support of the Universe.
All powerful women need a container. They need a support system and a foundation. They need as my girlfriend calls it, "a soft place to land." Beyonce could not be the woman she is without asking for the support of those around her that love her. She built a beautiful container to support her in being her. Greatness requires support. Greatness requires asking.
Since this system was not set up for women of color to naturally have our support laid out for us to ascend to greatness, we have to ask. We have to be raw. We have to expose the wounds and ask others for the salve to repair ourselves. We have to even go farther and ask them to put it on us.
I did the biggest, most vulnerable "ask" of my life. It required all the strength I had, to remove any ego and use any fear that I may have to propel me to expose myself in the most uncomfortable way I ever have. I can't lie, I am still scared.
Then a friend said to me, "You're a leader. In order to go big, you have to be willing to fall just as big." So I got over myself because this ask is bigger than me. I am doing this for every woman that is afraid to ask for what she needs. I am doing it for all my ancestors who had to go without not because they didn't ask, but because they couldn't. I am asking for them.
I am doing for my clients to show them that if they don't ask, they won't receive what they need. I am doing it to show every black woman that being our most radiant self requires support. I am doing this because our brilliance and power are in the ASK.