The Art of Asking - Amanda Palmer

December 4th, 2014

This review is going to be an exercise in "ooooh I have a good idea, I should write it down" but didn't. I had lots to say about this book three days ago when everything was still fresh but now I'm running on too little sleep (thanks, Dragon Age Inquisition) and my orange that I brought from home was sour and dry so I had to throw it out and ended up splurging on a massive chocolate coated macaroon (gluten-free) that is giving me a bit of a sugar high, so I should probably get this all out before I crash.


Anyway, this review amazingly enough, is not about my morning but the book The Art of Asking by musician Amanda Palmer. 

The main gist of the book is about not being afraid/ashamed/abashed from asking others for help. In most cases, at least for Palmer, people are very willing to help in beautiful and sincere ways. From large gestures, like the funding of her 1.2 million dollar Kickstarter campaign, to small ones, like a nurse driving over to the cafe Palmer was sitting at to bring her a neti pot. 

Palmer believes that people truly want to help. You just need to ask for it. 

It may appear to be a naive way of looking at things; perhaps it's a bit too trusting of a way of living your life. However, Palmer believes that, though there may be one bad egg in the bunch, the majority of the time, things tend to work out. Her philosophy is actually quite beautiful. Imagine living in a world where you didn't feel fear or shame for asking for something that you wanted. Knowing that the worst thing that could happen would be to be denied. Yes, it seems like rejection, but you at least put the energy out in the first place. You took the risk, you took the plunge, you "grabbed the donuts" as Palmer would say. 

I find it very difficult to ask for help because, like many Westerners, I view asking for help as a sign of weakness or failure. I could do it all on my own. I struggled with this through school when I refused help from my parents because I wanted to do everything by myself. Anytime I was offered advice, I would view it as criticism and a slap in the face. 

Why didn't these people believe in me? Why didn't they think EVERYTHING I WAS DOING WAS PERFECT AND RIGHT?

Because what I was doing wasn't perfect and right and I was being foolish for thinking that other people would have more wisdom than a 12 year-old.

In my experience (and in non-toxic relationships) when people try to help, THEY ARE ACTUALLY TRYING TO HELP. They care about you and are saying those not-so-easy-to-hear things because they want you to be happy and they love you.

Many years later, I'm still struggling with this. Some days are easier than others. 

As I get older and go into more professional settings, I am trying to employ this asking-for-what-you-want business in my every day life. When I was getting ready to apply for internships, I contacted my profs and other professionals I knew to see if they could help me prepare. As I am currently getting ready to interview for my very first full-time job, I asked some of my co-workers to give me some advice on what I can expect if I get the job. 

I'm starting to feel less embarrassed about asking friends and family for things and have become more generous with what I can give to them. 

Again, some days are easier than others.

What Palmer believes to be even more difficult is actually accepting the help you are offered. Palmer gives a perfect example of this in her own life. She was having minor financial difficulties and her husband, writer extraordinaire Neil Gaiman, offered her a loan. Palmer couldn't understand (nor could her friends) why she had no problem accepting help from strangers, fans, and friends, but couldn't accept it from her own husband. 

I felt this story on a very personal level because I can completely understand where Palmer is coming from (from the asking, giving and being given perspectives). I found myself wondering why is it so difficult for me to help out the two people I love the most, my parents? Why do I go into resistant child mode anytime I'm asked to do a simple task? Why do I think of them last, or sometimes not at all? And when they offer their help, I shrink back, feeling as if I should be able to take care of myself, that I shouldn't even need their help. I'm 24, I shouldn't have to be constantly running to mommy and daddy to solve my problems.

The thing is, I'm taking their support and their love for granted. I'm under the illusion of unconditional love, that no matter how bitchy, or snide, or snarky or downright childish I am towards them, they'll never leave me. And maybe that is true in my case, but it still doesn't warrant my bad attitude and behaviour. They don't deserve it and I should be doing better by them. 

Another feeling that I wrestle with is not feeling as if I'm deserving of help. I feel as if I haven't worked hard enough to warrant help, that I haven't struggled enough. 

It's totally bullshit. 

Everyone deserves help and everyone deserves to ask for help. When we start putting limitations on that simple right, we lose perspective. We start to view ourselves as lesser than others, that those people might deserve to be helped, but sure don't. 

It's an unfair way for me to think about things and it's an unfair amount of pressure to put on myself. Why don't I deserve help if I need it? Why don't others deserve that same help and respect from me?

So what have I learned?

I've learned that I can be a bit of a brat sometimes but I can also ask and give without fear some of the time (hopefully this will turn into most of the time). I've learned that I never know anything and that nothing is set in stone. What can be one way one day could completely turn around and change the next. I've learned that I need to stop taking the people I love for granted and stop taking advantage of them. I've learned that it's okay to ask for things as long as you don't demand for them. I've learned that asking is not begging. I've learned that everyone deserves to ask for help.  

I also learned that Amanda Palmer is pretty much a genius in thinking of something so simple and easy that can actually turn people's lives around. 

I highly, HIGHLY, recommend this book. I recommend it so much that I will actually purchase a physical copy of it (I read the library's copy, don't worry!)

Thank you, Miss Palmer. We share a birthday (hell yeah Taurus's!) and now we share a philosophy. Thank you for sharing your life and your experiences in intimate detail so that people like me can learn and benefit from your wisdom.

I'll take those donuts now.