True confession: I hate asking for help. And “hate” is no exaggeration—I once trapped my hand in the door to the attic stairs. Rather than call for help I stood there, on a ladder on my tiptoes, writhing in pain for 20 minutes until my partner stumbled across me. I am stubborn to a fault about many things, but I take resisting the urge to ask for help to the next level.
I come by it honestly. My father was old-school: a man’s man who never called a repairman, who rarely took the car to the mechanic, and would walk to work in a snowstorm before asking for a lift. And yes, that really happened. My mother is no better. She had major surgery, was in the hospital for seven days due to complications, and made dinner for the family on the day she returned home. Why, you ask? She didn’t want to ask for help, because we’d already received too much help during her hospital stay.
On the outset, this seems extreme —I don’t dispute it! But here’s the thing: too many of us are loathe to reach out for an assist, even for the most basic of things. And this over-reaching stubbornness often leads to unnecessary mental, physical, and emotional stress.
Like many children, I was raised to believe that going it alone is a sign of strength, and that anything else was unacceptable. It was that simple—asking for help was a sure-fire way to disappoint loved ones, and to potentially condemn myself to a life deadened by an incapacitating need for extra support.
So how does a person with a life-long case of help avoidance simplex learn to ask for help without feeling like the ultimate failure?
Here’s how I do it.
Ask with Confidence and Humility
I’m a busy lady, and I love helping people. That said I’m approached for help is everything.
I once mentored a student who claimed to appreciate all of the time and effort I provided in helping her succeed, but in watching her ask her peers for assistance, she often asked with a smugness that would’ve made Miranda Priestly clutch her pearls. Keep this in mind: no one wants to help anyone who makes them feel “less-than,” so whether you’re at the top of your game and only need a simple boost, or you’re feeling down-and-out and are desperate for a lifeline, ask for help in a way that recognizes the other person as someone who satisfying a need of YOURS—it’s an easy way to ensure both a comfortable request and a satisfactory result.
Timing is Everything
There’s an old saying, “time is an illusion, timing is an art.” When asking for help, it’s important to realize that the convenient time for you to ask may not be the right time for the person you’re asking. Looking at your request through the lens of the person who is receiving it can be very effective in helping you get the answer you seek. Think about it: how attentive are you when your coworker asks for advice when you’re racing to the restroom? This is a skill that can be honed through practice, observation, and maybe a little bit of luck.
Go Ahead—Make Their Day
Newsflash: People want to help. Ever bought a cup of coffee for the person behind you in line? Perhaps you didn’t do it because THEY needed help, but YOU did… and that’s the beauty of doing something positive: your emotional well-being is improved, and you feel a sense of satiety. In asking for help, try to shift your mindset from that of feeling burdensome to giving your helper the chance to shine. Know what else makes hearts sing? Two simple words: THANK YOU. Before driving off into the sunset, be sure to make your helper’s day once more by showing appreciation for the help you’ve received, as it’s this step that matters most to many.
Truth? Asking for help is self care, and there’s nothing to hate about it. It’s time for us to recognize that going it alone doesn’t make us smarter, better looking, or able to leap tall buildings in a single bound—it only makes us lonely. We are all stronger and better, together.
Misty Lynne Cauthen is a Pittsburgh-based entrepreneur, speaker, and fitness model. When she’s not shaping bodies and minds at Dragonfly Pilates, she’s putting the finishing touches on Finding Your You Luxury Wellness Retreats. For a next level self care experience, click here to sign up for her wellness tips for women and get invites to her exclusive retreats.