Have you ever found yourself in a position where you could really use some help, and you know it, but you can’t bring yourself to ask? Most of us have at some point or another, and many experience this on a regular basis.
Perhaps you are in the kitchen. You’ve eaten something you didn’t plan, you know you aren’t physically hungry, but you want to keep eating. Your inner voice is telling you that you screwed up, that you might as well keep on eating because you have to get back on track tomorrow. And there’s a still small voice that says to reach out. To ask for help. But you don’t. Partially because there is a part of you that wants to keep eating, and also because you don’t want to admit that you are having a hard time. Shouldn’t you be able to figure this out on your own? What does it say about you that you need help?
Does this picture resonate with you? It describes me to a tee. Except it isn’t always at home in the kitchen. It could be after a luncheon where I said I wasn’t going to eat the dessert, but I did, so I better keep eating. I ruined it, I screwed up.
It doesn’t matter where it takes place, what matters is that in each situation i needed someone to help me process. To help me discern my inner critic from my inner wisdom. To help me understand that I really don’t want to eat and figure out what I need in that moment. How to take care of myself in a way that I can feel good about.
So why is it so hard? Asking for help can be hard for some and easy for others. When it’s hard it is because of what we make it mean.
I asked some of the tribe over at phit-n-phat.com what their reasons are for not asking for help. Below is a summary of their responses and my feedback.
Asking for help means I am a failure. Oh how I can relate to this one! Such a common thought for a perfectionistic thinker. What does failure mean anyway? How do you define success and how do you define failure? A great way to evaluate this thinking to see if it seems reasonable is to place this same thinking on someone else. Think of your best friend. Then, picture her (or him) doing the same thing, and not reaching out for help. If she (or he) came to you after the fact and told you they felt like a failure for needing help – what would you say to them? Would you agree?
I should be able to do it myself. Many of us learn over the years that it is a “good” thing to be independent. To be able to take care of ourselves, solve problems, and navigate the roads of life on our own. While there is plenty of merit to that, we weren’t made to do life alone. There is no award for solving problems on your own. There is no prize for overcoming obstacles without assistance. Oftentimes the solution to the problem lies in collaboration, teamwork and assistance. What a beautiful thing! Needing help doesn’t make you “less than”, it makes you human.
Asking for help means I am weak. Nothing could be further from the truth, but this is one that your inner critic loves to use. The reality is that asking for help means you are brave. It takes courage to admit that you can’t do it alone and that you need support. I would argue that not asking for help is in reality showing weakness, not the other way around. Shame would have us think otherwise.
I don’t want to inconvenience anyone else. What if you looked at asking for help in a new way? I am someone who loves to help others. I’m not always able to help or available, but I love it when someone asks me. People often say they don’t ask because I am “so busy” and that makes me sad. When I am able to help others I am filled with so much contentment. It is truly a blessing for me to be able to help – whether it is an encouraging text, or spending time with a friend’s child. Through looking at my own experience of helping others, I have learned to see asking for help not as a burden to someone, but giving them a gift of the opportunity to help. They can decide whether or not to accept the gift – I don’t have to make that decision for them.
I don’t know what I need. Sometimes we know exactly what we need and other times we only know that we can’t do it alone. It’s OKAY to not know what you need. But don’t let this stop you from reaching out! A simple text or phone call can open the conversation. “Hey – I don’t know what I need right now but I could really use some support” is all you need. Let your support system take it from there. Don’t allow this excuse to prevent you from reaching out.
People don’t really want to help, they only say that to sound nice but it isn’t genuine. I recently had a conversation with a woman who told me that she often had people offer to help. They would tell her to “call anytime” but she was convinced that they didn’t mean it, so she never called. After discussing it further, she came to realize that this was her story. She didn’t have any evidence to prove that they weren’t genuine, but because she didn’t believe it to be true she didn’t reach out and suffered through her pain and struggles on her own for a long period of time. After our discussion she committed to reaching out and asking when she needs help, to take people at their word and offer for help until she has reason not to. She saw how she really did have a big support system all around her, but she chose not to call upon it.
I don’t help them, so I feel like I am taking advantage – it doesn’t feel equitable (equal?) We all have seasons in our lives. Seasons where we need help and ones where we are more able and equipped to give help. It is important to honor the season you are in. If you are in a season of needing help, take it! Don’t worry about not being able to reciprocate, don’t worry about anything other than resolving the problem in front of you. There will come a time where you will be able to help others. Or maybe not, and that’s okay too. Honor what you need.
It has been a long road, but I have come to realize that asking for help doesn’t make me weak, and doesn’t mean I have failed, it actually proves that I am brave. That I can recognize when I need support and ask for it, and that I can give others the gift of supporting me. I have discovered my primary sources of help and I have built an amazing support network. I’m not meant to do life alone and neither are you.
What about you? Do you have a hard time asking for help? If so, why? I’d love to hear from you!