Why is asking for help so hard?
Author: Radonda Rowton, MAC | PLPC
When I first started counseling, my supervisor told me not to be surprised if I did not spend the first few minutes of the session listening to the reasons why the client struggled to be there. Just the issue of making that first phone call can be a daunting task for many people. I’m not offended, because I know that it’s not about me. It is this whole idea of asking for help.
While at face value some may look at this issue and ask, “Why is it so hard for that person to ask for help?” The answer to that question can be many things.
• The fear of looking weak
• The fear of looking stupid or incompetent
• The fear of loss of control
How many of us have acted as though we know what we are doing when we really have no idea, in order to keep from having to admit that we need help? Why do we go to such lengths to keep from asking for help? Well, for one thing if you look at the above list, there is one emotion that is a constant in the three statements, and that emotion is ‘fear’.
Fear used in the healthy context is a positive emotion. We do not touch a hot stove because we fear of burning our hand. However, fear used in an unhealthy context can be a negative way to operate. It can cause us to get in our own way when we make asking for help mean something that it does not. The good news is that fear can be overcome when we process this concept by adding truth to every fearful thought. For example:
• The thought may be “If I ask for help, it means that I am stupid or inadequate.” However, the truth is that asking for help does not mean one is stupid or inadequate, it simply means that one may need help or perspective with something specific for a time.
• If the thought is that we can’t ask for help because we will be a burden, the truth is that we are giving others an opportunity to contribute. Asking someone for their opinion can be a form of respect and honor, so it can be a rewarding experience for both sides.
• What if we understood the people we may look up to as “confident” are usually the first people to ask for help. They understand it is impossible to be good at everything and not asking for help from others causes them to be overwhelmed and stressed, making it impossible to do well at the things they are good at. It is called supplementing a weakness. The best part of learning to ask for help is that it is a time saver.
I understand this may require us to change our beliefs. But the truth is that empowering beliefs encourage. Negative beliefs cause failure because we simply do not put out the ask to someone who has an answer we don’t.
People come into my room because they are looking for a perspective I may have that they do not. Never one time have I felt they were stupid or inadequate for asking. In fact, it was quite the opposite…I am always amazed at their courage. Everyone needs help from time to time…someone to look out for them and make sure they are okay…someone to make sure they are ready to take that next step. We have all been there.