Asking For Help

by Dian Reid-Jancic· Follow Dian on

We don’t want to admit it,but we think asking for help means we’re weak. We think it means we don’t know how to do “it,” whatever “it” is. We think asking for help means we’re stupid. We think it means we’re incapable of doing for ourselves. We think it means we’re worthless. We think it means others will think all those things we think about ourselves.

Well, if that’s what we think, we’re wrong. And that’s okay, because this post is about changing that belief and finding what’s right for you.

I won’t even make you ask.

What I will ask for is that you suspend any idea that asking for help displays weakness. Believe with me for a moment that asking for help is a sign of strength. Asking for help empowers you to thrive. Asking for help brings you closer to your community of friends and family who want to see you grow. Asking for help is part of what makes successful people successful, because no one can do “it” alone.

Successful people know how to ask for help, and aren’t too busy being worried about how others will see them. They’re laser focused on what’s important to them, making things happen, and taking care of themselves and/or their business.

Sometimes what’s important is getting things done. Sometimes it’s being/feeling supported. Sometimes it’s a little of both. Whatever the reason we ask for help, if we’re successful, we get what we need. We take care of ourselves. We feel supported and we get things done.

What’s Difficult

It’s not always easy to ask for help. Even those of us who seem to have it all together need a little help every now and then. And even knowing this, we still find it difficult. I asked some of you what the most difficult thing to ask for help with was, and here’s what you came back with:

  • “help with myself”
  • “asking my boss”
  • “asking online mentors what to do with my life”
  • “money-related help”
  • “a shoulder to cry on”
  • “ears to listen to me”
  • “encouragement”

And then a step further, what’s difficult about asking for help in these areas?

  • “pride”
  • “I’m a Gen-Xer so I hate asking for help because it disturbs sense of self-sufficiency”
  • “Depression era parents, perhaps at the root?”
  • “it requires me to admit being weak at times.”
  • “I want the shoulder and the ears without the bonus of comments and advice 🙂 Even if they reflect wisdom”
  • “I was supposed to have the answers, be a go-to person, so I felt I couldn’t ask.”
  • “Maybe my hardest situation was actually a lack of trust. Hmmm…”

Each and every one of these situations and reasons for difficulty in asking for help resonates with me. I also have difficulty when the asking of help sheds light on whatever mistakes I may have made to get myself into a predicament. Read as: Appearance of Failure.

Oh the fear of failure, the fear of appearing weak. We can choose to focus on the fear, or we can look it in the eye and see where it’s trying to lead us. We can look at our options and see which one will move us forward.

  • Option #1: Do nothing.
    ~ We stay where we are and feel sorry for ourselves.
    ~ We act like a martyr and assume we deserve to be wherever we are.
    ~ We actively choose to stay stagnant.
  • Option #2: Ask for help
    ~ We get what we need.
    ~ We grow from stretching ourselves in the asking.
    ~ We create a bond between ourselves and whomever is helping us.
    ~ We move forward.
  • Option #3: Something in between
    ~ Find what works for you

What’s Easy

I also asked you what the easiest things were to ask for help on, and here’s what you said:

  • “busy work”
  • “prayers in healing”
  • “to leave me alone”
  • “projects [I have a passion for]”
  • “when there’s deep trust between me & the ‘helper'”

That last point is a great one. Trust makes it easier to ask for help. It also helps when it’s a simple task we don’t really want to do anyway (use these for practice on the next one). Or when it’s something so important to us, the thought of it not getting done outweighs our fear of asking. And then when we’ve practiced asking, it begins to feel like second nature. More on that in a sec…

One of my favorite comments on asking for help was actually about being asked for help:

Well if it helps confirm anything for you, I enjoy being asked to help people because I do understand how hard it is for some people to ask. In understanding that I feel honored, respected & trusted when I’m asked to help someone acomplish something that they are in need of, or are passionate about.

Actually, it does confirm something for me. My father said something similar years ago when asked why he didn’t mind taking care of my animals while I was out of town, even though it had the outward appearance of being a burden. He replied very simply, “It feels good to be needed.” Indeed, it does.

You get the benefit of getting what you need, and you’re also providing another the opportunity to be of service. True, not everyone out there has a “be of service” mentality, but if you’re here and reading this, you’re probably surrounding yourself with people who do have that mentality. And if you’re not surrounding yourself with those people, get out there and do it. There are people out there who want to help you. Give both them and yourself that rewarding opportunity. And give yourself a chance to be of service to someone else. Everyone loves a giver.

Okay, But How Do I Ask For Help?

Oh wouldn’t it be easy if I just handed you a “How-To” guide on asking for help. I can give you some examples of what’s worked for me, but in the end we grow the most by figuring out what works for us. Here are some of my examples of asking for help:

  • Hey, do you have a minute to just let me vent? I’m not looking for feedback, I just need to get this stuff out.
  • I’m working on a [huge, little, awesome] project, and I could really use some help in getting it off the ground … will you help me?
  • I’ve been trying to do [this thing] on my own … I’m really struggling and could use some help …
  • Dial the number of a close friend. When he/she answers the phone, begin crying uncontrollably. You can explain yourself later.

Help isn’t always about just asking, sometimes it’s about exploring the conversation. Sometimes we ask specifically for help, and sometimes we just elude to it. Sometimes we just say what we want and trust that our right people will deliver. You’ve got to find your own way of asking or putting it out there.

Asking for help is really easy if we allow it to be, just ask Mynde Mayfield. Truth is, we can get used to the struggle and think it’s the only way, without realizing we’ve actually chosen the hard way. Choosing the easy way takes practice. Practice is about making us better, not perfect. And asking for help is about growing and making us better, not letting everyone think we’re perfect. Because we’re not; we’re human.

And now, a couple of questions I hope you’ll answer in the comments below:

  • What works for you in asking for help?
  • What’s your belief in asking for help—sign of weakness? Sign of strength? Something else?
Image courtesy: cupcakes2 via Flickr

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Kylie August.5.2010 at 8.16 pm

This is a great post, Dian. I feel very comfortable asking for help from Mary, but I'm working on asking for the support I need from friends and family, as well. I think that act of asking for help really affirms that you think you're worthy — of the other person's time, attention, or effort. Just asking (even if the answer is no) is a good practice. Also, asking for help when you're afraid to do so affirms the other person's agency. When you ask, you're recognizing that they have the power and wisdom to recognize their own needs. That's something that is really helping me to do more asking when I need to.

Dian Reid August.5.2010 at 8.42 pm

A great point, which speaks to self-esteem: “I think that act of asking for help really affirms that you think you're worthy — of the other person's time, attention, or effort.”

When we practice being worthy, we raise our worthiness because we raise our belief in ourselves. When the answer is yes, we learn from that experience, just as we learn from the answer being no. Taking this rejection of sorts and choosing to either move forward or let it keep us right where we are makes us an active partner in our wellbeing.

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