Are You Asking for the Help You Need?
Insight From My Students
A key component of the new online course Transform Your Procrastination is the direct engagement between students. Each student is asked to participate in the lessons by posting in the Transformation Community Forum, where I also post and reply to students.
One issue that comes up in the Transformation Community Forum is not asking for help. When students find themselves getting stuck for whatever reason, they have a hard time asking for help–even help that is paid for, freely offered, readily available, and easy to access. This difficulty plays throughout their lives to the detriment of their productivity and well-being.
Though the roots of having difficulty asking for help may be deep, there are things we can do to help ourselves rise above it. As we do this work, those deep roots slowly wither. Personal change is a gradual process that requires lots of practice. But as you make changes in one area, you may see them reflected in other aspects of your life as well. Learning to ask for help is an ability that enriches the rest of your life.
Why Is Asking for Help Hard?
There are several reasons that people find it hard to ask for help. Keep in mind that most people have difficulty asking for help – it’s not just you. They may just be better at acting in spite of their fears.
- Fear of Rejection
- Fear of Being “Found Out”
- Fear of Feeling Weak and Helpless
- Belief that You’re a Burden
Fear of Rejection
Perhaps, as a child your requests were often denied and you “learned” that if you asked for something, then it almost guaranteed you would not receive it. That story may have been true in your past, but now that experienced-based belief is outdated. You can choose to believe something new such as: If I ask, I may receive what I want. And sometimes people are delighted to give me what I ask for.
Fear of Being “Found Out”
This fear is behind a lot of celebrity addiction. But, in fact, nearly everyone except the most super confident among us has this fear somewhere inside. Most competent and highly professional people regularly ask for help. They see it as accessing help enabling them to do what needs to get done.
Fear of Feeling Weak and Helpless
Sometimes it’s not appearing weak to others that holds us back as much as feeling it ourselves. Our culture is filled with hero stories where one person goes it alone to achieve their success. These stories are false! If you read anyone’s biography, you will see how, without help and guidance from others, they would not have reached their same level of success.
Belief that You’re a Burden
You believe that you or your request will be a burden. It’s true that sometimes your request may not be convenient for someone. However, there are many other times when the request is actually helpful for the person you asked. I’ve experienced this many times in both giving and receiving help. After watching the recent hurricane disasters, it was so heart-warming to see the extent to which people rose up to help each other. Think back to times when you’ve helped someone in response to their request. (I’m talking about true requests, not demands) How did it feel to help them? Do you want to deny that good feeling to others?
Begin Asking for Help
I have gathered some strategies to support you in feeling more at ease asking for help. But if you have additional contributions, please leave them in the comments below.
1. Rejection Does Not Have to be Painful
Most of us experience rejection as painful, but it doesn’t have to be. There are many reasons for someone to deny your request that have nothing to do with you. It may feel as if they are rejecting you when they reject your request, but in the vast majority of cases this isn’t true. So don’t take rejection so personally. One of my previous blog posts offers some tactics about how to react In the Face of No.
2. Ask for Help From Those Trust
Be savvy about whom you ask for help. Do not ask people who make you feel diminished or who might use the request to manipulate you. Reach out to people you trust – the people who have your best interest at heart. If you’ve already done things for that person in the past, perhaps they would welcome ways to reciprocate. Perhaps they are even hoping that you will request something from them. Be sure to phrase your request so that the person can decline without feeling like a jerk.
3. Reciprocity Builds Bonds and Confidence
Be aware of the natural dynamic of reciprocity both in your giving and receiving of help. When someone helps you, be on the lookout for ways to help them back. By asking for help, it opens an avenue for you to share your skills, talents, and abilities with others. They may ask for your help in return. This interaction of giving and receiving helps strengthen bonds and increases feelings of gratitude all around.
Make a list of your strongest talents and abilities. Reflect on this list whenever you’re feeling unworthy of asking for help. Know that you have these qualities to offer to others when they are in need. You can avoid asking for help by offering to trade skills rather than asking for help.
4. Ask for Help Before it Gets Too Big
When faced with a problem you need help with, it is common to deny that the problem is significant enough to ask for the needed help. As time passes, the problem grows and becomes more intractable, and it can possibly be more expensive to resolve. Sort it out before it grows too big.To determine whether your problem is worth resolving, ask yourself how negatively it is impacting you and your ability to move forward. Watch out for second guessing your request. The best practice is to seek help as soon as you realize the need. Don’t let your fear talk you out of asking.
5. Find an Inspiration
Do you know of someone in your life, or your imagination, who asks for what they need easily and confidently? When you need to request something, think of them as you ask yourself: If I were fully confident about asking for help in this situation, how would I go about asking for it? What posture would I stand in? What words would I use to ask? What would I be telling myself about my request? And if my request is rejected, what would I tell myself then? Then keep this in mind as you make your request. Act as if you were that confident person.
6. Practice, Practice, Practice
The best way to feel more comfortable asking for help is to practice. At first it may be difficult. You will gain experience asking, and it will get easier. I’ve also found that some things are easier to ask for help with than others. Make a list of those easier things and look for commonalities among them. Then select your initial requests from these easier arenas to begin practicing with.
7. Build Courage
Take steps to build up your courage in other ways. Begin with small challenges and move on to more difficult ones. In the video course, Living Fearlessly, you get new perspectives on approaching fear. In addition, students get nine courage-building exercises to help you build it.
Jia Jiang found that his fear of rejection was getting in the way of what he wanted to get out of life so he challenged himself to a 100 days of rejection challenge. Check out his inspiring (and funny) TED talk. Then challenge yourself to ask for help at least once a day. Even if you have to ask for something that you don’t really need. The regular practice can turn your fear around.
Jia Jiang: What I learned from 100 days of rejection | TED
Asking for Help Builds Self-Esteem
At its core, difficulty in asking for help is related to self-esteem and worthiness issues. As you ask for and receive the help you need, you improve your ability complete what needs to be done in a more timely and effective way. You build up your self-value within your own psyche.
The fear of asking for help is very common among procrastinators. If you procrastinate more than you want to, getting the help you need to get control over it can enable you to achieve your dreams and beyond. It all starts with giving yourself the tools you need. Overcoming procrastination is very difficult to do on your own, but with a guide to lead the way and hold your hand, it is achievable. The online course, Transform Your Procrastination helps students, like you, to turn their lives around. Invest in yourself!