How do you feel about asking for help?
Since 2014 one of my most popular posts was about why introverts and highly sensitive people might find it more challenging to ask for help when needed. I wrote it in response to a meme from the time…
I am an introvert and I might not go to anyone for help when I’m feeling down. I don’t want to burden others with my problems. But if you check on me and offer it, I may ask for your help.
The Story We Tell Ourselves About Asking For Help
Do you find it hard to ask for help? Do you get frustrated at yourself when you don’t seek support with things when you need it? You’re not alone. I don’t think this is exclusive to introverts and sensitive types, either. It’s a message we might have gently absorbed from different arenas of life.
Are you aware of where your resistance comes from? What might NOT asking for and receiving help from others prevent you from doing?
What Are We Asking For Support With?
I bet you have a particular image of what help means. Maybe it’s emotional help with your feelings or working out how to deal with a difficult situation. Perhaps you need practical support, asking for help doing something you can’t do alone. For example, you want to move the wardrobe to the other room, but it’s a two-person job. Or you might wish for help to explore, learn, and grow your skills in a particular area. And you know someone with the tools, knowledge, and resources to help.
Many “helpers” struggle to seek it from others. There is cognitive dissonance in how they judge themselves for needing support but love to offer and provide it to others. This might be a pattern with deep roots traced to their family role and way of feeling accepted, safe, and approved of growing up.
We internalise and carry messages with us early on that can impact our actions later in life. But we can work with and rewrite many of these scripts once we recognise them.
7 Obstacles That Stop Us from Asking For Help
1. Fear of Appearing Entitled
We might carry a scarcity mindset around help. We might fear that there isn’t enough to go around and that others deserve it more than us. Or we think we have no right to it due to our imperfections and inadequacies. If we were good enough, we wouldn’t need it.
2. Fear of Rejection
Maybe we’ve been taught to see asking for help as a weakness. We might fear being humiliated, ridiculed, or misunderstood by those we ask from.
Perhaps it opens a question of personal value. We might believe we are valuable if we’re helpful and lack value if we’re a burden (i.e. we need help). We learn not to be a burden by prioritising self-reliance and self-sufficiency. And this is where the cognitive dissonance of the helper who can’t ask for help comes from. We turn off the emotional energy flow, suppressing our core human needs.
3. Fear of Change
We might carry an unconscious fear that if we ask for help, it will change things. While we might not like it, we find comfort in safe and familiar outcomes. If we don’t ask for help, we don’t need to worry about unexpected changes (even desirable ones) happening.
4. Fear of Being a Burden
We might be afraid of asking for help from someone who has other things they would rather be doing. We feel guilty for imposing on their time, energy, and goodwill.
5. Fear of an Uncertain Transaction
We might be unsure of expectations and boundaries. What will the other person expect as a result of helping us? Are they keeping score? Will they send us an invoice? The fear of an awkward and uncomfortable situation can make us think we are safer to keep it to ourselves.
6. Fear of Losing Control of The Situation
If you’ve ever asked the wrong person for help or asked for help in the wrong way, this can take its toll. Some people see being asked for help as permission to take over. We might lose control of the situation if we don’t set clear expectations and specific parameters for support. And if you dislike conflict, this can lead to frustrating and awkward moments.
7. Fear of Energy Drain
One reason many introverts might resist asking for help is that it can take energy. All the above reasons take some organising and preparation. And without a clear picture of who we’re asking and what we’re asking for, it can feel easier not to ask.
Where Might You Ask For Help?
Can you think of a particular personal challenge or project that would be easier to approach with help? Specifically, what support do you need with it?
Where are some potential sources of support? Don’t limit yourself while answering this question. Think of as many people and places that could help as possible.
Based on the limiting scripts you’ve identified around asking for help, where would be the most straightforward and comfortable place to start? Be precise with your request and work with the other person to set specific expectations. This is about starting small and building your comfort level over time.
Being overly empathic means, you not only sense others’ emotions strongly but also take too much responsibility for easing their heavy and difficult emotional energies. This weighs you down and may make you feel like your empathic abilities are more of a burden than a gift.
Marika Vepsäläinen led a free workshop in The Haven where we looked at how over-empathy in adulthood often comes from survival strategies in childhood. And why we might find giving help more comfortable than receiving it. The replay is available here.