I don’t know about you, but I used to feel very uncomfortable asking for help in times of need. I still do, to a degree, but thankfully that’s changing, and it isn’t as hard as I thought it would be. The moment that all changed for me was a few months back, on a Saturday morning. Once again I was alone with my children at home, and my daughter had to go to art class and I needed to take my son downtown. It had been raining heavily for a while, which for any of you living in Bangkok, you know this may be a deal breaker on what you manage to do with your day.
I looked out the balcony and couldn’t see any major floods, so I decided to take the kids to their appointments. After dropping my daughter off, as I was driving with my son on the motorbike, we got ourselves caught in some flooding. I had done this stretch of the road in floodwaters many times before, and I thought we’d be safe to proceed. Then suddenly, out of nowhere, the waters became very deep and the engine in my little motorbike stopped. I found myself trying to hold a motorcycle, my son, and a heavy bag with my work and laptop. It was an awful moment.
I decided to dump the bike on the side of the road as I could no longer keep us safe. I grabbed my heavy backpack and my son, and I just went for it… one of the longest walks of my life, walking through the floods in central Bangkok, with all kinds of interesting things floating on it. What I haven’t mentioned yet is the fact that I had tripped and hurt my back a few days prior, so I could hardly straighten up, let alone carry my son.
I could have so easily turned around before the big floods, or go into a shop or restaurant and not have to drag my son to his appointment, or call a friend for assistance; but no, my stupid heroic complex would not allow me to make any logical decisions. I had to do it, and asking for help was never an option. I’ll be honest, I was in tears by the end of that day. My back was killing me, I wasn’t sure if the bike would work again, and I couldn’t find a place that could help me get it fixed in English. My son was angry with me because we couldn’t meet his friend later on as I had promised him. I felt completely defeated and powerless, and couldn’t wait for the day to be over. Earlier that day, a friend called me and offered to help, which of course I shot down straight away, even though what I really wanted to do was to say yes, please, help!
That day I decided that my fear of asking for – and receiving help – had to change. My own stupidity and pride was making me go through unnecessary struggles, and if things didn’t change, a day like the one I just had would continue to repeat itself. I just wasn’t up for that anymore. So in that moment, I committed to work on asking for help, and to accept help if it was offered to me. After all, I am the first one to lend a hand whenever I see anyone in need; that part came easy, so maybe it was time to receive some as well. So I got thinking, why am I so bad at asking for and accepting help? I also know this is quite a common problem, faced by many, especially women.
Here are the top 5 reasons that I came up with, and I hope you can resonate with them:
1 You don’t know what to ask for.
Very often the situations or circumstances that we are faced with require us to handle so much, that we simply don’t have a clear understanding of what we really need to ask for, and don’t know how people can provide any relevant help to ease our situation. The fact is that, unless we are aware of the things that we are struggling with, we simply won’t be able to express our needs clearly.
2 You feel that you need to be self-reliant
Or, as I like to call it, you have “heroine syndrome”, where you pretend to have superpowers that allow you to do it all – ha! You somehow feel that you need to do everything that comes your way, and accepting help would mean that you are not able to cope with your load. 3 Pride and ego Some of us may feel that we can handle and do anything, like we are able to save ourselves and others, and somehow the prospect of getting help is simply not a viable option. You don’t want to appear weak or needy, or you don’t want to have to repay the favour. You don’t want to inconvenience others. The list goes on and on.
Somehow you may feel that you don’t deserve to be helped. We have also convinced ourselves that we are so independent that we don’t let anybody to help us with anything. Somehow you may feel that you are supposed to be perfect, and relying on others is simply not an option. You don’t want others to see you failing.
We are afraid they may say no. Maybe we needed help in the past and people who knew about it didn’t help, or maybe someone said no to us in the past, or believed we didn’t really need help. Let me tell you the biggest lesson that I learned about this topic. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength. Since I started asking for help, and accepting it whenever someone offered it, my quality of life, and sense of wellbeing, has improved dramatically.
Do you still feel uneasy or uncomfortable asking for help? Try these 5 effective steps to get you enjoying the benefits of being helped:
1 Make a list.
Create a list of what you need help with. The best way to ask for help, is to get clear on it. By becoming aware of it, it’ll be much easier to assign specific tasks and understand how to request specific help.
2 Get clear on who can help.
Think about those people who had offered to help in the past, and you didn’t take them up on the offer. In my experience, people who offer help actually do mean it. You may be able to identify who of those people could help you with some of the list items, or you may need to find new ways of getting help. Getting clear will help you take action.
3 Speak up.
Talk openly about what you are going through and what you would like to get help with. Please don’t make people have to guess what you need or want. We are terrible at doing that. We don’t communicate openly, yet we expect people to understand our needs and come to the rescue, when in most cases they simply aren’t aware of you really want. Be specific and direct, and make it easy for people to say yes.
4 Offer help.
If you put yourself out there and give help, in whichever way you are able to, then asking for help will also become easier. Try to work with your relationships on both giving and receiving, and you will feel more worthy of accepting help. If you just take all the time, without giving anything back, then people may not want to be there for you when you really need them.
5 Be grateful.
Always thank anyone who helped you, and take a moment to notice how you are making them feel by doing so. Appreciating another person is rewarding for all people involved, and chances are, they will continue to be there for you in times of need if they feel that you value their assistance, and you are also there for them.
The truth is that we all need help from time to time, and during those times, help is at hand, if you know what you need and how to ask for it. You are not meant to do it alone, so swallow your pride, your fear, your shame or whatever it is, and just dare to ask for help. Put yourself out there and make yourself available when others need help too. You will come to find that people do care, that people want to help and that helping others feels great!
Over to you now: Are you clear on what you need help with? Have you clearly expressed your needs to people that have the potential to help you? When was the last time you offered help to someone in need? Write down the top thing that you would love to receive help with, and then work on finding a way to ask for assistance with it. Don’t stop until you can cross the task off your list.
Here’s to your success!