People often think, and this sounds very familiar to me, that asking for help is admitting to others that we don’t know what to do or can’t handle a situation. Sometimes that’s the truth. On other occasions we know what to do but can’t do it all by ourselves. Regardless the reason, when we ask for help we choose not to do it on our own and there is nothing wrong with that!
Yes, you can do almost EVERYTHING on your own. You can work longer, harder, take more classes… you can learn almost everything on YouTube (including swimming;) can’t you? But what is the cost of that? What is the cost of being little miss self-sufficient? Managers love you because you rarely complain and just get on with stuff. People give you even more to do because you are so efficient… Your family seems happy because they don’t have to do that much, you even know how to unplug the toilet, not to mention cleaning and cooking. Everyone seems to benefit from that, except you… You are constantly tired, stressed out and really believe that the solution to it all is just to work a little harder. Don’t fool yourself!
Why do we want to do it all by ourselves?
- We want to be perfect – From a very early age we get rewards for doing things right and some sort of punishment or unhappy faces when we do something wrong. It’s very easy in a mind of a little girl to create the conclusion My parents love me when I get good grades and don’t love me when I get bad grades. With all the good intentions of the parents that’s most likely what’s gonna happen. And then these girls – us – go through life working very hard to get everything right, to make no mistakes whatsoever. It’s a very hard way of living, mostly because it’s impossible to make no mistakes. As Einstein said: “A person who never made a mistake, never tried anything new”. He was one of the smartest people on the planet and he wasn’t perfect.
- We don’t want to admit we don’t know something – It can be extremely hard to say: I don’t know how to do it. We are managers, big bosses, mothers, daughters… In our heads we have a role to play in front of others and we can’t possibly admit not to know something. If we do, our ‘facade’ we worked so hard to build will be destroyed and people might find out we are human as well… Imagine that! I’m currently writing a business plan and to be honest I have no idea how to do it but it took me at least 2 weeks of reading and watching YouTube before I’ve asked for my friends who studied Business and Finances for help. Why? I didn’t want to look stupid. I was scared that my friends, who I like and trust, would think less of me! And I am a coach;)
- We don’t want others to see our ‘weakness’ – Asking for help is, in our minds, a sign of weakness and there are no prizes for being weak. In many western, masculine societies, there is nothing worse than being perceived as weak. You should always be strong, no matter what, otherwise others might use this ‘weakness’ against you. On the contrary, I believe that when people see our true nature, they will respect us more as they will be able to relate more. Yes, there are some that might laugh and try to belittle us but that only shows how much they fear being human themselves… What is more, when we ask for help we let other people shine. We give them (our husband, children, colleagues) a chance to feel needed. It’s also good to remember to thank them afterwards and assure that they are ‘amazing and only they could have done it so well’, they will feel noticed, important and they will be more willing to help us next time.
How to ask for help?
- Ask for help – As simple as that. Just say it: I need help with… or Could you please help me with… Don’t be a martyr saying I always do everything, you never help me. You can leave the complaining part for a different occasion, it’s not going to help you here, most likely it will cause resentment and anger on both sides.
- Be specific what you need help with – It is very important to say exactly what you want the other person to help you with. Don’t say I need help with children, maybe say instead Could you help me with picking the children up from school?
- Determine when you need this done – Another crucial point is to say when you need the help, e.g. Could you help me with picking the children up from school next Thursday and Friday?
- Explain how it will make you feel – If you add a bit of ‘personal touch’, the other person will be able to empathize more. If you do that I will be able to finish my project at work in time and it will take a heavy weight away from my shoulders.
- Work out the when and how if necessary – If the person you are asking for help can’t do Thursday and Friday calmly discuss what days are best for them and try to find a compromise. Especially if you ask someone who in some way is connected to the ‘subject of the helping’ e.g. the father of the kids, they are more willing to find a common ground.
Who to ask for help?
We often feel we are alone in the world and there is nobody that can help us with our to-do list. It may sound a bit harsh but sometimes it’s very convenient to think like this, because that makes us the biggest martyr in town;) and if we are one, we don’t have to do anything about it. We bear our cross and wait for others to save us. If we decide, however, that we don’t want that anymore, we have to go out of our comfort zone and ask for help. And there is usually many people who are willing to help.
- Friends/ family – Usually you have your partner, parents, sisters, brothers, friends around and they are always most likely to say yes, because they care about you. Try to ask them for small things – you know them best, so you’re able to guess who is most likely to help you.
- Your community/strangers – Everybody have neighbors, colleagues from work. The key is to build some connection with them, to be ready to help them as well if they need it. If we consciously build our support network, then they will be there when we need them.
- The Universe/God – This one is a bit abstract but by now you probably know what I’m going to say. Do what you can and delegate everything that you can’t control to the higher power. There is only that much that you can do. You’ve worked hard, you’ve asked your friends for help with your work application, you’ve written all the tests and did your best at the interview. Now it’s not anymore in your power to decide if you gonna get the job or not. Delegate then and trust that the universe always knows what’s best.
Asking for help is a sign of carefully managing your own energy and making conscious choices, not of being weak. It benefits not only us but also our family and friends. I truly believe that when I’m not overworked, overwhelmed I have energy to give to my dear ones, to make their life easier, better. So really by giving ourselves permission to get help with our daily challenges, we also give something to others. And that’s the beauty of life – you get what you give:)