May 4 – Asking For Help: What’s So Hard About It?

Written by Karyn Hall

May 4, 2020

Everyone needs help at times. It’s part of life. Right now, many of us need help. In fact, we all need help during this pandemic. We need everyone to help get us through this crisis. But many also struggle with asking for help. Below are some different reasons that may be true.

1. Fear of rejection. Asking for help means that the person you ask may say no. If you interpret “no” as a rejection of you, rather than just a statement of what they can do, then that will be a painful situation. Fear of hearing “no” can keep some from asking for help that they need.

2. Fear that you shouldn’t really ask. Our country is one that prides itself on “pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps” and being independent. We encourage people to be individuals. This may unintentionally send a message that you should be able to do everything yourself, and that needing help is a sign of weakness or failure. It can also create a sense that asking for help is like violating a norm or a rule. In fact, we all need help at one time or another.

3. Not wanting to be a burden. Some of you may fear being a burden on others. You may worry about other people and prefer to put the burden on yourself instead of asking someone else to help.

4. Fear of being out of control. Maybe you are someone who prefers to do things yourself. Maybe you have a way of doing things that works for you and you’re pretty sure others won’t do it the way you want it done. Asking for help can seem like you are giving up control, and that you will owe the other person, so the other person can take away your control.

5. You worry about what others may think of you. Needing help can make you worry that others will see you as a failure, weak, or incompetent. You may feel stressed about others seeing you as flawed and imperfect even though we all are.

It can also be in conflict with your own identity. Maybe you see yourself as the helper or care giver. Maybe you have always been the one who supports others. Needing help just isn’t who you are, so asking for help is not only something you have no practice doing, it’s also a threat to your sense of self.

6. You worry about having to do the same for others or just about being obligated. When you ask for help, others may more readily ask you for help. You may be concerned about being obligated to help others. But it can also be true that you hate the sense of being obligated to someone, of owing someone. If someone helps you, you may feel you are in debt to them and that’s not okay. Part of the trouble about asking for help may be the difficulty in accepting help if they give it.

7. You ignore or don’t acknowledge to yourself that you need help. Are you taking risks with your health by going to the grocery store when you are in a vulnerable group? Are you taking on too many tasks with more people at home more of the time? Are you trying to manage a budget by yourself, without the income you are used to having?

Do you have a long list of tasks, longer than you can imagine even catching up on? Have you stayed up all night getting things done? Is there something you want done but don’t know how to do? Do you want to check on your family by videoconferencing but don’t because you don’t know how?

You may be ignoring that you need help or deciding that you’ll just do without. Sometimes that may be your only choice, but consider whether asking for help might be helpful (hmmmm).

Live a skill-ful life. Karyn Hall, Ph.D. May 4, 2020

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