If You’re Going Through Hell, Ask for Help

I recently accomplished a long-term goal – earning my master of science degree. I started three years ago, when I was a mother to a 1.5-year-old and worked full time. Taking 1-2 classes at a time, including a class while on maternity leave with my second child, I completed my degree program and recently walked at my commencement ceremony.

The speaker at the commencement ceremony impressed and inspired me. Dr. Catherine Kling, a distinguished faculty member of environmental economics at Iowa State University and a National Academy of Science member, congratulated us on our accomplishments and gave us advice based on her life in academia.

She said:

  • Stay Academic – Be open to criticism and use it to improve your work. Do not dismiss the ideas or views of others because they look, act, or sound different than you or because they come from a different part of the world.
  • Be Intentional – Ask yourself: Are your actions and behavior consistent with your core values? Be intentional in your choices and actions as you move forward.
  • Persevere – When you face challenges and hardships, persevere.

Her words about perseverance especially struck me. She acknowledged that many of us have already faced challenges and hardships in our personal lives or likely would in the future, and she spoke of her own experiences. Dr. Kling shared that her biology predisposes her to clinical depression and anxiety. After her daughter was born, she experienced excruciating postpartum depression. The support of her husband and colleagues, as well as medical help, helped her recover. Her candid advice and comfort talking about mental health was encouraging.

She shared a quote, which is credited to Winston Churchill, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” Dr. Kling agreed with the advice, but noted that you may need help to keep going. She said, “When you do, ask for it. Accept it, and appreciate it. And if you can provide help to someone else who is going through hell, take a few steps with them to ease their burden.”

This advice reminded me of my Sigma Kappa sisters. Our sisterhood is about growing personally and supporting each other. My hope is that our members learn to persevere through challenges and ask for help when they need it, as well as help others around them. My collegiate Sigma Kappa experience has certainly influenced how I approach difficulties and how I act toward others. I needed help from my husband, mother, and colleagues to earn my master’s degree while working full time and raising two kids. Asking for help when needed takes courage and self awareness. So, whatever your life stage, I hope that you take this advice from Dr. Kling to heart.

How does this advice affect you? Do you need to reach out to ask for support to get through a current challenge? Who can you support right now?

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