I believe that we all need help and support once in a while. And this is perfectly fine. Life is tough enough and we cannot and shouldn’t expect that we can do it all on our own.
However, some of us find it awkward to ask for help when we need it. Unfortunately, this often results in deteriorating careers and relationships but also in a lot of diseases such as burnout or depression. I wonder how the statistics for these diseases and even for suicide rates would look like if we would simply ask for help when we need it…
The hard way of learning to ask for help
A few years ago I was not the person who would easily ask for help.
I believed that to be strong meant to be tough and able to face all challenges on my own. I was trying to be flawless and courageous in all areas of my life. I felt proud when I had achieved my goals without asking for help.
Although I accomplished a lot I had to pay a high price for every success – hours spent in preparation, anxiety whether it will all work out, numerous sleepless nights, etc. This all led to physical and mental exhaustion. I ended up a complete breakdown, no longer able to manage anything on my own. I wasn’t even able to get out of the house without crying or having a panic attack.
That was the moment when I realized that asking for help was my only option to survive. I had to accept my defeat in trying to conquer the world on my own. It was time to find strength in my vulnerability and reach out for help: from family, friends, colleagues, books, life coaches, and strangers who have experienced what I was going through.
This was one of the toughest lessons I learned in my life. But I am grateful because learning to ask for help has helped me on so many levels and brought me where I am now.
Why does it feel so awkward to ask for help when helping others is so easy and pleasant?
Looking back I wonder why I did not allow myself to feel vulnerable and to admit that I did not know it all?
The first answer that came to my mind was that nobody ever told me that it was ok to ask for help.
When I think about it, society constantly promotes helping others in need with all sorts of volunteering activities or charity campaigns but we are rarely invited to ask for help when we need it.
When I was at school, we were expected to do our homework on our own. It was not a privilege and definitely not cool to admit that you didn’t know how to solve a tough mathematical equation or write an essay on a topic you had no clue about.
Later on, as a starter, eager to prove that I was worth hiring, I was prepared to spend days and nights to solve complex situations instead of admitting that I could use some tips and tricks from a more experienced colleague.
However, when I dig a bit deeper, I realize that society was not my only problem.
I might have gotten plenty of opportunities to ask for help but I might as well have ignored them at the time. I guess I got carried away in my conviction that I had to first figure it out on my own and try all possible options and scenarios before I could even consider asking for help.
Perhaps we often don’t even realize that asking for help is an option…
The benefits of asking for help
Save time and energy
Very often we don’t have to reinvent the wheel and we should strive to save our time and energy where possible. There are so many people who have gone through the same or a similar situation to ours. By reaching out to them we can learn from their experience and mistakes.
Now, everybody is different and what might have worked out well for others, might not work for you (and vice versa). But it is always helpful to hear out new perspectives and brainstorm with somebody who can understand what you are going through.
Both asking for help and helping are opportunities to connect on a deeper level
Throughout the years I have asked the people around me for help but also complete strangers. Besides reaching my goals, asking for help has resulted in wonderful relationships I would not trade for anything. Believe me, it is very fulfilling when you reach your goal and you can share the success with the person who has been there for you in the process.
While writing my articles I dare to ask my most loyal editor Boryana Dineva to provide me with early feedback. This way every published article becomes our Masterpiece. As a reader, you might not agree with it but we have both done our best to structure my thoughts and ideas in the most logical and easy-to-follow way. More importantly, we have called each other a few times to exchange ideas, which is remarkable considering the fact that we live in the opposite parts of Europe.
At work, I am no longer afraid to ask my colleagues or my manager for help when I am facing a challenging situation. Especially when I am too deep into the details to see the big picture and come up with the best solution. Not only do I spare myself quite some unnecessary stress but I also feel more connected to the people I work with. It’s good to know that we can count on each other when life gets tough, not only for work-related matters.
A simple guide on how to ask for help
To save myself a lot of troubles I now feel ok to ask anyone for help with anything.
The following four steps are based on my personal experience and might help you in case you also find it difficult to ask for help. Take it or leave. It’s up to you. It won’t do you any harm.
It all starts with realizing that:
Step 1: Offer your help to others in need
When you are the one giving help you will realize how good it feels to be helpful and witness how someone else achieves his/her goals with your help. When you see that someone could use some support or advice, don’t hesitate to offer your help. Make them feel comfortable to come to you when they need it. Show them that it’s ok to not know it all and share personal examples of situations when you have been through a similar situation yourself and how asking for help has brought you further.
Step 2: Start by asking for help with small and less significant tasks
For example, ask a colleague to keep an eye on the phone while you are having a break. Or ask your partner to wash the dishes when you have had a tiring day. Once you feel comfortable to ask people for small favors and see the benefits of it, you will eventually start trusting them with more complex matters.
Step 3: Don’t hover over something for too long
Have you struggled with making a decision or finding a solution for very long? And you didn’t manage to get further on your own? This is a clear sign that you could use some help. It’s normal that when we dive too deep into the details for too long we might start losing sight of the big picture and our brain gets overwhelmed. The viewpoint of an outsider might be helpful by simply asking the right questions or opening up your mind to new possibilities.
Step 4: Adopt a more positive mindset about asking for help
Realize that there is nothing wrong with asking for help. It’s not a sign of weakness or laziness. Asking for help and helping can save human lives and can help relationships flourish. Once you experience it from both sides you can actually change your whole perception of it and see it as a positive way to save yourself some unnecessary stress and build a strong relationship with someone else.
As you can see I had to learn to ask for help the hard way and most probably many of you, too. Let’s learn from our mistakes and more importantly let’s also help others learn from our mistakes.
Dear parents, teachers, professors, managers, coaches, colleagues, partners, and friends,
If you haven’t done it yet, please start showing the people around you that it’s ok to ask for help!
Let us allow each other to admit that we do need help once in a while and let us be there for each other when we need it.
My dear reader,
If asking for help makes YOU feel anxious as well, then please remember the following quote for the rest of your life: