I HATE asking for help. To be honest, I do everything I can to avoid it. I browse hundreds of tutorials on YouTube and procrastinate a lot. I know that many of you struggle with it too. It especially hard to understand concerning that nobody is completely self-sufficient, and together we are more likely to survive as social animals… How to ask for help and why we hesitate so much about it?
I was pre-programmed since early childhood to be self-reliant and never ask for help. I guess many people are. “If you can count, then count on yourself”, my Dad used to say. Honestly, being dependent on other people and their good will is the worst thing that may happen to me… I’d rather die than be immobilized, which is why learning how to ask for help has been particularly difficult for me. I’m a Do-It-Yourself girl, and a daughter of an engineer. You say I can’t fix a lawn mower or paint my room all by myself? Watch this! (In fact, I did).
Why do we struggle so much with asking for help (or anything else) and accepting it when offered?
Why is asking for help so difficult?
It’s not the act of asking itself that is so paralyzing. When our life is at stake, we don’t hesitate to scream our pleas. But most situations are not matters of life or death. It’s all the feelings under the surface that make it so uncomfortable. I did not come up with any definitive answer, but instad, made a list of possible reasons why asking for help sucks so much.
Your self-esteem is based on your self-reliance
I’m most proud of the things I’ve achieved without anybody’s help. Maybe I was conditioned to believe that asking for help is a sign of weakness. Nobody wants to feel weak, right? My carefully crafted persona of an independent businesswoman and an adventurous girl suffers when she has to admit not being able to handle something by herself. And more than about what people would think, is about what I think about people who behave this way. I’ve always regarded it as weakness.
Before internet fora and YouTube it was different – if you didn’t know how to get something done, you had communicate to others your need in order to have your question answered or receive the required help. Maybe then it was regarded as normal, but in the Google era when you can find the answer yourself, it’s hard to accept that you may actually benefit from someone’s help.
When you ask for help, you admit that you aren’t perfect, which is why perfectionists struggle so much with it.
You can read more about perfectionism here:
9 Reasons To Stop Being A Perfectionist (& Why Good Enough is Better Than Perfect)
10 Myths About Perfectionism & Successful Life That Perfectionists Believe
Also, you may have experienced disappointment with someone you thought you could count on. You asked for help when you really needed it, but got rejected, or the person who promise to help you did nothing.
Or maybe your help is often requested by people who don’t do it the right way, so it feels like a nuisance. And you don’t want to bother anyone else the way other bother you.
One way or another, your previous negative experiences with asking for help taught you that it’s better not to count on anyone but yourself.
Fear of losing control
Fear of being out of control is something many perfecitionists may relate to. For me, it’s about compromising my standards. When you deal with a problem or task alone, you don’t have to justify or defend your ideas. You just do it your way. It feels awkward when someone dedicates the time and effort to help you, but you are not satisfied overall with the result.
Also, there is another aspect of control. The one who’s help is requested has the power to decide what will happen, and thus, is in full control over the situation. This uncertainty is unbearable.
Feeling of being indebted
Many human social interactions are based on the concept of transaction: “You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours”. We don’t request help because receiving it requires reciprocity, and we may not feel like we can afford it.
Sometimes it works the other way though. You may WANT to repay, but the other person doesn’t want to accept anything in return. That’s even more uncomfortable, isn’t it?
Fear of rejection
Whenever we decide to ask for help, we put ouselves at mercy of another person, who may or may not agree to comply with our request. That’s life. The rejection may have nothing to do with you, there may me a thousand reasons why someone refuses to lend you a helping hand. But it still hurts the ego, right?
Rejection sucks, but the fear of rejection is much worse that rejection itself, which is why so many of us become “people pleasers”. We all have the need to belong, and rejection is interpreted in personal terms. It feels like a real catastrophe, but in fact it isn’t. The situation in most cases is pretty neutral, it’s out thoughts about it and the negative emotions they generate.
Read more about emotions here:
11 Common & Harmful Myths About Emotions, And Why You Should Stop Believing In Them
You don’t feel worthy
Fear of asking for help may be also explained by low self-worth. Some people feel they don’t deserve the help they need: “Why would anybody help me with my first-world problems, if I’m healthy and have a roof over my head? There are some many people worse off than I am.”
Benefits of Asking for Help
You might actually get it! Ask, and you shall receive, the Bible says.
You save time and energy. Each person has different talents, experience and areas of expertise. Instead of spending two weeks on ladder painting your room, you get the job done in two days. I wish I had asked for help instead of doing it all myself.
You give joy to others because people actually like giving. They really do. When we give, we feel happier and improve our self image. Also, helping becomes an opportunity to demonstrate our inner strengths, and even perhaps, to fulfill our life purpose.
It makes us grow. Reaching for that helping hand expands your comfort zone. It makes life less predictable and opens us to new possibilities for growth. Asking for help also teaches you self-compassion and self-acceptance: you don’t have to be perfect to be worthy of love and belonging.
It facilitates human connection. Everyone feels vulnerable when asking for help. To receive help, you have to admit that you’re not perfect and actually need other people. Everybody does sometimes. We know it, and that’s why we empathize. A mayday call creates an opportunity for new connection, or a chance to deepen an existing one.
Not a long time ago, a friend of mine asked me to help her with painting the kitchen. She needed another person to help her take off the cupboards from the wall and hang them after painting. She struggled to ask me, but I loved the idea and agreed without hesitation. We spent the whole evening together, had a dinner, worked and had lots of fun in the mean time.
How To Ask For Help
- Acknowledge that you need help. Sounds simple, but it’s not – you will have to swallow your pride in the first place.
- Name the need and be very specific.
- Find the right person that has the means to help you with a particular need. Pick someone who is qualified to hel you solve the problem and that you can trust.
- Just do it! Start with the core and later add details. Also, you can tell your helpmate why you think s/he is the best person to do it.
- Be grateful! Your helpmate deserved your thanks for the time s/he dedicated to solving your problem. When help is appreciated, helping is a pleasure!
How NOT to Ask For Help
Don’t wait too long. When you’re desperate, it’s not asking, it’s begging. And you don’t give the other person the time required to take the decision and action. Request help earlier than you normally would, don’t treat it as a last resort.
Unless it’s a real emergency, don’t expect your helpmate to drop everyting and come to rescue you immediately.
Don’t blackmail or demand. Asking is about taking into account the possibility that your potential helpmate may not be able or willing to give you a helping hand. And that’s okay.
Don’t make the other person feel guilty. Emotional terrorism may work as a short term strategy, but it certainly deprives your helpmate of the joy one experiences when helping voluntarily.
Let others help you, then PAY IT FORWARD and help someone else. That’s how karma works, baby.
PS. I suck at asking for help, but this time I will. If you enjoyed reading this article, please share it on social media, and send a link to a friend who you think may need to learn how to ask for help. Sharing is caring 🙂
PPS. This article was inspired by a book that I am reading now, Mayday!: Asking For Help In Times Of Need by M. Nora Klaver. The author, who is an experienced executive coach, offers really great tips on how to ask for help. This book has inspired me to challenge my ego, practice self-compassion and start asking for help more often.