Erika Petrelli
Erika Petrelli

My 20-month old son has formally entered the phase commonly known as the “terrible twos.” He has discovered a desire for independence and is starting to find the vocabulary to vocalize it. Some of his favorite current phrases are: “I do it!” and “I turn!” and “I hold it!” and “No, stop!” He’s also found the three letter word most beloved by children across the ages:  W-H-Y. For him, it comes out like “WuuEEYYEE?!?!” after each time he’s told no… No, you can’t climb on that table; No, you can’t go near the fireplace; No, you can’t poor all the cereal on the floor.

One of the things he has become very clear about is that he’d much prefer to do it himself, thank you very much, no matter what “it” is. This is where the “I do it!” replays itself over and over throughout the day. When asked if he needs help, he’s also been known to reply “I help!” He just wants to figure things out on his own, without help or guidance, even when the task is totally beyond his scope or ability.

It is fascinating to watch, and interesting to think about how often we do this even as adults. That stubborn determination to “do it” without help can be a great way to learn new skills and stretch ourselves to new heights, but it can also block us from receiving much needed guidance and perspective. Sometimes “help” is the best thing that could happen to us – it’s just really, really hard to ask for.

I remember a story from one of my colleagues where she was at a family function and, as happens, the kids were all playing in one part of the house and the adults were mingling in and around the kitchen. The adults noticed one of the kids run into the kitchen, turn on the sink faucet, scoop as much water into his hands as would fit, and then run back to where the other kids were. They watched him repeat this several times before someone finally asked what he was doing.  His response, simply, was “The fire is almost out!”

The fire is almost out.

I know that, for me, asking for help can feel vulnerable – perhaps a sign of failure, perhaps an admittance that I can’t do it all or that I can’t do it well – and that can be all too humbling. I’d like to believe that I can conquer any fire. However, when I think about the other side of the equation – when I’m asked to help someone –far from judging what I know that person perceives to be their weakness or failure, I am simply grateful for the opportunity to lend them my love and support. Now-- I just need to remember that when it’s my turn to ask.

Like the quote goes, "The spaces between your fingers were created so that another's could fill them in." (unknown)

Where can you ask for help?


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Erika Petrelli

By Erika Petrelli

Erika Petrelli is the Senior Vice President of Leadership Development (and self-declared Minister of Mischief) for The Leadership Program, a New York City-based organization. With a Masters degree in Secondary Education, Erika has been in the field of teaching and training for decades, and has been with The Leadership Program since 1999. There she has the opportunity to nurture the individual leadership spirit in both students and adults across the country, through training, coaching, keynotes, and writing. The legacy Erika strives daily to create is to be the runway upon which others take flight. If you enjoy these blogs, you should check out her interactive journal, On Wings & Whimsy: Finding the Extraordinary Within the Ordinary, now available for sale on Amazon. While her work takes her all around the country, Erika calls Indiana home.