“Help me.” “A little help, please?” “Can you help me with this?”
This is what asking for help looks like. But how many of us do so willingly? Or rather, how many of us ask for help before we’re drowning? If, like me, you take on more than you can handle and have a hard time asking for help, there is help for you.
I have a very dear friend who is way overbooked, a “Go it alone” person. As a result, her life is, basically, hell. She is frazzled, cranky, unhappy, on the run, out of shape, out of breath… you get the idea. Yet when I tell her to ask me for help as needed, she blows me off, forges on. Brushes past my offer with an impatient, “I’m okay.” Even my noticing that she might need help is offensive to her.
I love the girl to death, but also worry for her peace of mind. I would bet that if you’re not asking for help, someone is probably worried about you, too. It’s always easier to see that behavior in someone else than it is to see it in ourselves, let alone correct the problem.
I’ve done a little surveying of why people don’t ask for help, and here’s what I heard:
- We think asking for help makes us look needy.
- We hate to inconvenience someone else.
- We have deluded ourselves into thinking we can get it done.
- Our work ethic doesn’t recognize the value of receiving help.
- We have control issues.
Both the “Bootstrap” thing and the challenge with control issues are really confronting for me. I am a self-starter, proud and independent; I have a hard time trusting someone else with an important task, or when a timeline is involved. Giving things over to others is next to impossible to me, even when I am obviously overburdened.
No one likes to admit they need help, which is why doing so is such a brave act. To move forward, we need the courage to let go of the “Story” of what it means to ask for help, the “I’m weak and incompetent” story. It’s so, so hard for those of us independent-minded folks.
How, then, when we are so conditioned to go it alone, do we ask for help? Here are some tips for asking for help:
- First acknowledge that you need help.
- Picture what will happen if you don’t ask for help NOW (e.g.: your disappointed coworkers faces if you drop the ball).
- Identify a trusted person who you know won’t judge you.
- Remember that people LIKE to be asked for help, and you are honoring your relationship with them by doing so.
I dug around a bit and found a resource in the wonderful Brene Brown’s 2008 blog post, “Confront me if I don’t ask for help.” . Knowing she was overwhelmed, she created an “I know things are bad when” list, full of signs so unavoidable that she was overdoing it that even she knew when she had to ask for help. A great idea and very doable.
First and foremost, pay attention to your mindset. Instead of beating yourself up about needing help, congratulate yourself. Admitting you need others is a strength, not a weakness, and embracing this new way of being is a major step in a more productive, centered life.
If I can help you at all, I hope you’ll ask me. We are all in this together, and the “Brave Community” that we are calls all of us to lean on each other now and then.
Be brave. Admit your need. Ask for help.