One of the things I hate most in life is asking anyone for help. Mexicans are known for their unreasonable pride, and though I am first generation Mexican-American, I am no exception. I come from people who have survived many hardships. Though I don't support our country's bootstrap rhetoric, my family and members of my community did, in fact, pull themselves up by their bootstraps or chanclas. These are people who take so much pride in their hard work and perseverance, many have refused any assistance whatsoever from the government or any other organization. (Contrary to popular belief, immigrants are not moochers).
A friend of mine, however, recently pointed out that this sense of extreme self-suffiency is actually a manifestation of machismo. It's the idea that you have the strength and balls to take care of yourself and your family. You avoid asking for help even though it may have devastating effects.
So I realize that I am macho. For many years I have had the attitude of "I don't need no motherfucker to take care of me." My good grammar even jumps out the window.
Growing up I always insisted that I would take care of myself. I didn't need a man or anyone else for that matter. This reminds me of a line from Maxine Hong Kingston's Woman Warrior: "Isn't a bad girl almost like a boy?" Growing up I was almost like a boy in that I wanted to be free from the constraints of my home and culture. I wasn't simply bad. I was terrible. I wanted the freedom of a man. And so when against everyone's wishes I chose the kind of life I wanted, I was truly on my own.
As an adult, I have never financially depended on anyone. Even at my lowest points, I was somehow able to scrape by. There were some tough moments in college and grad school, but I made it through. There were a few times that I should have simply asked a friend to borrow $20 dollars like a normal person, but I refused. There have been times I had emotional crises and didn't reach out to anyone because I didn't want to burden anyone with my troubles. I suffered alone. Like an idiot.
It wasn't until recently that I realized that this pride is actually a form of failure. My tenacious hold onto this sense of self, this ego, is a huge weakness. The fact that I don't have the confidence to admit that yes, I need help, is a flaw in character. But for so many years, that is all that I had. No matter what, I could say, "I did this all myself, chingao!"
But now I am at a point of transition in my life. I need help. I need a lot of it, in fact. And as I force myself to reach out to people, it almost physically pains me. And I feel this way even though I would happily give almost anyone a hand. I shudder inside. I feel ashamed and embarrassed. And then I feel ashamed of my shame. (Meta-shame!) But I'm trying my best to tell the macho in me to shut the hell up, that asking for help doesn't make me a failure. It just makes me a person.