The Hubris of Self-Sufficiency


I was in a nasty bicycle accident about 10 years ago. My wife and I were in the midst of an extensive home remodeling project at the time, and I’d gone on a ride to clear my head. It wasn’t anything too intense, just a jaunt down to the ocean and back. Gliding down a small incline I hit a speed bump and found myself suddenly separated from my bicycle and flying over the handlebars. The flying part of flying over the handlebars was a pleasant experience, tempered only by the fact that the pavement was coming up rapidly towards my face.

When I landed, my hands and elbows were torn to shreds and I’d hammered my chin. Since I wasn’t wearing a helmet, I felt I should try some simple multiplication problems to check for brain damage: “4×5 = 20, 10-6 = 4, 12-3 = 9…”

After the math I felt sleepy and very much like I needed to vomit. I was so sleepy in fact, that simply crawling to the sidewalk seemed impossible, so I laid back and rested in the middle of the road. A minute or so later somebody ran up to me and said, “Oh my God, do you need help?” To which I said with as much calm as I could muster (and mind you, it wasn’t just because I was in this concussed state), “No I’m all right, it’s cool.”

Recently, I started thinking about this tendency of mine not to ask for help, or to decline help when it’s offered. Though my show of “independence” is meant to depict strength of some kind, my refusal to accept help even when I clearly need it, is actually the height of arrogance. In effect it says: ‘I’m beyond needing your help. I’m entirely self-sufficient. I don’t need any help from anyone, can’t you see I can handle this?’ And I suppose after hearing my shrill refusal, the people who wanted to help me that day just shrugged their shoulders, went on their merry way, and said, “Right, asshole, you can handle lying bloodied on the street with a massive concussion. You’re f-in Superman!”

Lately I’ve really been working on asking for help and I find it’s easier now. I practice doing it all the time now. The result is amazing because what I’ve found is that people (unless they’re sociopaths) really enjoy helping other people. I’m certainly someone who enjoys helping others. When you receive help, you see how happy it makes people and then you become more understanding of the value of helping other people as well.

The next time you go over the handlebars and somebody says, “Can I help you?” I’ll definitely say, “Yeah I need a little assist.”

Peter Himmelman is a Grammy and Emmy nominated singer-songwriter, visual artist, author, film composer, entrepreneur, and rock and roll performer. He is the founder of Big Muse, a company, which helps unlock innate creativity. Clients include The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, The UCLA School of Nursing, 3M, McDonald’s, Adobe, and Gap Inc. Himmelman is also an alum of the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern. His latest book, Let Me Out(Unlock your creative mind and bring your ideas to life) was released October, 2016 and is available on Random House Tarcher/Perigee

“Fear is one of life’s biggest roadblocks, which is why Peter Himmelman’s book is so important. Let Me Out gets to the heart of how we can keep fear from limiting our potential by tapping into our inner resilience, creativity, and strength. There’s deep wisdom here along with very practical tools for translating our ideas into the real world.” – Arianna Huffington, co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post


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