8 Reasons Introverts Might Find it Difficult Asking For Help

Beth Buelow of the Introvert Entrepreneur posted an interesting quote on Facebook about asking for help.

It captured many peoples’ attention, including mine because it poses some fascinating questions about the way those of us with introverted temperaments respond during times of disappointment or pain.

It really struck a chord with me:

“I am an introvert. That means that when I’m feeling down, chances are that I won’t actually go to you for help. In fact, I won’t go to anyone for help. You’ll have to actually check on me. I don’t feel that I should burden others with me problems, but if you come to me, I might just trust you enough to let you help.”

Beth introduced the quote by saying, “I’ve long thought of introverts as do-it-yourself-as-long-as-possible type people, but wasn’t sure if that was just me or if it was a characteristic shared by others. This post tells me at least one other person feels the same way”.

Introverts Struggle in Asking for Help

From the response Beth had to the post, it is evident that thousands of people resonate with this idea, myself included.

Nic and I were reflecting on this quote because we both respond in quite similar ways during tough times. We chatted about why we think it might be hard for introverts to ask for assistance sometimes, even when we need it. And even when we know we need it, why our default position might be to turn inwards.

Why We Might Struggle in Asking for Help

We identified 8 reasons why this might be true for many introverts:

1. You Tell Yourself that You Have it Easy Compared to Others

Have you ever been told to ‘get over it’ or ‘that’s just life I’m afraid’ when you have shared your concerns with someone? Hearing that kind of thing from someone else can reinforce something that many of us already have within ourselves – that we are too soft and just need to ‘toughen up’.

It can be easy to convince yourself that your problems are your problems, and you just need to get over yourself and cope like everyone else.

 

2. Fear of Rejection

If you have been on the receiving end of words like those in the first point then you may simply fear hearing them again. There is a great undertone of rejection in those words. If you fear having your problems and concerns belittled then you will be more reluctant to bring them to another person.

There might also be a fear of judgement by the other person, especially if you need help with something that you feel embarrassed or guilty about. Judgement is itself a very real form of rejection.

 

3. You’ve Experienced Dependency in Other People

Maybe you’ve had experience of other people coming to you for help and that has developed into a one way, dependency relationship. It’s obvious to see why you might be uneasy about asking for help in this case. You don’t want to make anyone else feel about you the way you feel and think about the person who is dependent on you, i.e. resentment towards you.

 

4. You Don’t Want to Feel Like You Have Burdened Someone Else

This is similar to the previous point, except maybe it’s a simple as just not wanting to feel like you have brought an undeserved burden into someone else’s life. Many introverts and highly sensitive people I speak to struggle with being the centre of attention, and there can be a strange sense of self-consciousness in talking about yourself and any problems you are experiencing, to someone else.

 

5. Reciprocity

We have an economic outlook ingrained in us from an early age. A lot of human interaction is based around a “matcher” concept of transactional interdependence, i.e. ‘you do this for me and I’ll do that for you’. So when it comes to asking for help we might be afraid of what would be expected of us in return, especially if we are at a low point where we don’t feel like we have anything to give.

On the flip-side however, is the idea you WANT to feel like you are giving something in return but the other person doesn’t want anything. This might feel demeaning or patronising to you, and you might feel trapped in a debt that you have no option to repay, which can feel imprisoning.

 

6. Fear of Losing Control

Maybe dealing with things alone is your way of retaining control. You might fear losing a grip on the situation if you ask for help with it. You might fear losing control of who knows about it. Or you might fear the potential awkwardness down the line if someone takes you under their wing, gives solutions and advice, only for you to choose to do something difference once you’ve had time and space to consider all the options. How do you tell them without rejecting the time and effort they gave to you?

 

7. A Belief in Self-Reliance

Maybe you’ve just been brought up and subtly (or not so subtly) conditioned to believe that asking for help is a sign of weakness. Perhaps you were brought up with importance placed on pride and the fact that you were to be resilient, self-reliant, and independent.

Maybe you have experienced things that mean you find it very hard to trust other people. Or you’ve felt let down by people you thought would help you.

 

8. Overwhelmed by the Potential Energy Drain

This is a big one for most of us, and probably serves as an umbrella under which the other factors rest.

I think the initial inward turn of the introvert during troubled times is the body’s natural switch to energy-saving mode. Bringing other people into it will take energy; explaining things, answering questions, and feeling many of the pressures from previous points, all deplete energy reserves. So asking for help, especially right away, becomes an overwhelming concept.

How do we start asking for help?

We might be fully aware that we need to let other people in more and be willing to ask for help.

But in reality this can be a lot more easily said than done. Especially when we are talking about a natural, temperament-driven response during such times.

In her book, MayDay! Asking for Help in Times of Need, M. Nora Klaver makes some helpful suggestions for doing just that.

She says:

“Most people have never been taught how to ask properly.

So we do it badly, sometimes using guilt, coercion and blackmail. We solicit pity when we want assistance, or we ask the wrong person. We might have felt humiliated doing it in the past, so we fear doing it in the future.”

  • Be straightforward. Ask in specific terms, but do not micromanage.
  • Rely less on the obvious people. When seeking a doctor, for example, do not just ask your friends. But go to a nearby gym and ask who the athletes see.
  • Bypass phone calls or e-mail messages if at all possible and make your request in person and in private. Sometimes anonymity is useful, however. Ms. Bilotta, the credit counsellor, said that people often feel more comfortable discussing money issues over the phone rather than face-to-face.
  • Pick up on cues — is that an enthusiastic or a reluctant yes?
  • Say thanks when the agreement is struck. When the need has been met and when you next see the person who helped you.”

 

Over to You

Question: Do you find it difficult asking for help? Do any of the above reasons resonate with you (can you think of any others)? Please leave your answer in the comments below.

30 comments
    1. Hi Elzek. Thanks for stopping by. Sorry I don’t quite understand your question. I wrote the article in terms of asking for help from people we know and trust, when we know we need it.

  1. I deal with a lot of undiagnosed depression and a person who is very judgemental. My room has gotten so messy that I’m not sure if I can deal with it on my own but I feel I have no choice since I know I will get into trouble for it even if I know myself that it isn’t my fault

    1. That sounds like a tough situation, Jenny. It’s horrible when it feels like things get out of control like that.

      What are the different parts of your room that you would need to tackle when it comes to getting it sorted out? Sometimes it’s when we see the big picture all at once that things feel overwhelming, but by breaking it up into smaller focus areas (a particular wardrobe, drawer, under the bed etc), and getting a clear picture of what would be a good result for each thing, it becomes a bit more manageable and easier to approach.

  2. This article was super helpful and I feel like I have experienced each reason listed to some extent. For me, it seemed like in the past I was rejected and sort of shamed when asking for help or if I was bothered by something when I was growing up.

    Something else that comes up for me is when I hear others complaining because someone asked them for help. I definitely don’t want to ask for help when I hear others complain.

  3. Hello, I suffer MDD, but it seems like the worse off I become and the more problems overwhelm me, the less I am able to ask for help. I believe this has become more of an issue nowadays as I reflect on mostly the fear of being judged and hurt more than I already am. I also have a couple of one-sided relationships and I don’t want to put someone else through that, though I would never INTEND to do such a thing. I usually accept the one-sided relationship because there’s usually a psychological reason for that to happen and I need to be as understanding and as helpful as I can be and try not to hurt that person’s feelings. Though I must admit, sometimes it gets to be a bit difficult, especially when that person is my olde sister… I, on the other hand, am never ever wanting to burden anyone with my troubles. I also have lately began to start mistrusting others with any information of mine. Then there is the issue of reciprocity or “keeping score.” I am not so much one to keep score. I generally love helping others and don’t care how many times I help or do things for others in need, without expecting payback. Yet, when I am down so deep that I am unable to do for the person who might help me or am unable to reciprocate (because many people do keep score) at that moment, I feel very uncomfortable. And even if I am able to do something to reciprocate at that moment, most of these people don’t need or want my help, which makes me feel like a useless piece of… (well, let’s go with) dirt. This was well explained in the second paragraph of #5. I believe (but maybe I am wrong) that Western society pushes its people to be independent and self-reliant. I grew up half Hispanic in a Western Anglo culture so I understand the need to be self-reliant, but then in the Hispanic culture, it’s different, but it also depends on where one lives. But I would agree that self–reliance to me, as an introverted person, means self–protective. That is key.
    So the less I depend on others for help, the less I feel weak and vulnerable. When I am so vulnerable that I cannot stand to be in so much pain or trouble anymore, I cannot risk asking for help. Or maybe it’s more like “damned if you do, damned if you don’t,’ please excuse my language. If I do ask for help, I am afraid of getting hurt or bothering others and if I don’t ask for help, something bad may happen to me or even someone else. There are other fears as well when asking help. What if I ask that my issue be confidential and then, after revealing it to someone, the confidentiality is broken. One might be scared that the news will travel in some way, whether it be through family, “friends,” the internet, or the police. I can think of a few times I have contemplated suicide but was afraid to tell family or even therapists for fear of being put in a psychiatric ward, especially since my older sister is a psychiatrist. Whenever I have had those kind of thoughts, I generally keep them to myself. Anyway no one wants to hear that you don’t want to live anymore. Actually that’s not exactly the case; it’s really more ironically, a cry for HELP. Furthermore, it could mean, “I don’t want to feel this PAIN anymore” or “I don’t want to experience THIS life anymore (i.e.”I want a different life”). Anyway, that’s the way I see it, but try to explain that to someone. The Introvert or suicidal introverted person will probably say, “Nahhh, forget it. Not worth the effort.” (which was the point made in #8).
    Thank you for this article. These are very good arguments and are well presented.
    I hope what I wrote was helpful, as my wish is to help others as much as I can, especially those who have trouble asking for help.

  4. Yes, I resonate with almost every point here. At a point, I thiught you were reading me like a book. Never knew I was even introverted, always thought I was ambiverted because I sometimes go out.

    1. 🙂 Yeah there are lots of misunderstandings about what it means to be an introvert. Introversion does not mean anti-social, or disliking people. I go out and love people (with exceptions!) But they (and lots of external stimulation) drain me, and I need to get back to solitude to recharge my batteries. Thanks for your comment!

  5. I I wont let myself act like my needy ex husband who lied for pity, acted self-entitle, used people and wastes everyones energy and time, then plays the victim.

  6. I am so very thankful that I found this article. At the time I found it, it was 2:00 am and I was in tears. (All my tears are shed when no one can see me.) I was desperately searching for why I can’t bring myself to ask for help even when I’m at the end of my mental rope. I am a full time nurse in a high stress job, homeschool two teens, care for a disabled husband, do volunteer work and have many people that rely on me, both family and friends. There are times that the demands on me become unbearable but I can’t tell anyone nor can I ask for help, for absolutely every reason you state here, 100%. It is the same reason I endured 10 years of domestic violence in my younger adult life and never told anyone. This year, I am making a strong determination to practice a greater degree of self care. This article helped me so much. It has given me a burst of hope. It has helped educate me on why I am the way I am, but even more so, to show me that I’m not unusual or weird. That people like me exist out there, lots of them. I have long felt guilty for being an introvert. Felt guilty for needing quiet time, for hating to answer my phone, for not being social. I am beginning to embrace how I am and, to be honest, I’m happy being an introvert. There’s nothing wrong with it. I will use these articles to educate those around me so that they understand that I was MADE this way, and while I may need help because I don’t know how to say no, I don’t need to be changed. Thank you so much.

  7. I really appreciate this article. I am an introvert (along with other difficulties) and as I think about this discussion, the word that comes to mind is vulnerability. Asking for help makes me feel vulnerable – which opens me up to many possible negative emotions and experiences. 3 1/2 years ago I reached out in desperation and started going to therapy, which has been a LIFE CHANGER for me. Vulnerability isn’t necessarily a bad thing….
    I have more confidence than ever, and I’m still working on asking for help and it will probably be a life long process. We don’t have to do it alone and one of the most important lessons I’ve learned is that I am not alone. Although I felt so painfully alone for 38 years, I no longer feel that way. Many others feel the way I do and the more I talk about it with otters, the more I realize that we need to be open and receptive so we can learn and grow together. Two brains solving a problem together is always better than one, I always say.

  8. This is my problem , i have a cousin that i help where i can , i had to say No to living with me for awhile because i have a family but she had other options that she didnt like , sry at some point you are asking for to much and when you need somewhere to stay you cant be to picking about it . But i still feel guilty for saying NO, i shouldnt because i have to put my husband and child first . I see she has all these issues here but she will use this against me without saying it , beats around the bush about needing help and thinks people should just know or offer her . Asking for help you do have to humble yourself and ask !!! It comes to the point where you want help but do you think your to good to ask ??? I watch her help others instead of helping herself . So then in return i dont want to help her no more . Why should i help someone that doesnt want to help their self ??? Just dont understand they should know or offer attitude !!!

  9. I can relate to numbers 1,2,3,4,6 and 8. Even though I have never been told as far as I know to just get over it and that’s it’s not a big deal I have developed that mentality on my own from looking at the situations of other people be it real life or fictional. I am the oldest of three kids with a dad who works, a mom who cand do much physically and is dealing with her own problems and homeschooling my brothers and a grandma who has cancer most of them look up to me and sort of depend on me for various reasons and because of that i feel the need to not be seen as having any issues. Also for that reason I don’t want to feel like another burden to add to their list of problems. Also I have been dealing with something that happened to me when I was thirteen that is affecting me more and more every day and it’s making me depressed and I feel so ashamed and guilty for it that I’m scared of being rejected and judged so I have never told anyone. It’s also causing the other reasons I mentioned like not having it as bad as other people to rain down hell on me on top of not wanting to lose control of the situation. I fucking hate it. It’s a constant war in my head going back and forth from “it’s something serious that needs to be dealt with” and “it’s nothing and to stop exaggerating”.

  10. I can relate to SO many of these! I’m terrified to ask people for help, especially in a financial sense!

    For me, fear of judgment is yet another reason why I’m so reluctant to even reach out for help — even though having a disabled husband has often pushed me to the edge of that comfort zone and has forced me to ask for help. Nobody has outright criticized me, but I can imagine people I know saying things like, “If only she would go back to full time work, she’d be FINE financially!” Or even worse, “Maybe she should have thought twice about having kids!” Certainly, I have seem the judgmental types out there before, who assume that money is the only thing young children need in childhood (which is far from truth… and I think I do a really amazing job with my two kids by just being their mom). The other thing is that I often get frustrated when I see others care less for me than I do about them. Being a HSP is almost in a sense a disadvantage in that your expectations for others are raised a bit higher than they ought to be. I’ve learned I can’t take everything so seriously and that most people are not going to be as compassionate as I am, based on personality factors alone.

    The feelings of embarrassment don’t go away even when people actually do help me. I also tend to be more “afraid” of those kind-hearted souls who took time to help me. I find myself questioning their motives. I suddenly become even more distrustful. Which is nutty, because sometimes people just want to help out of kindness and compassion very much the same way I like to help people.

    1. Thanks Christina for sharing this. I can imagine that must be hard, and can see exactly how you hear those judgements in your mind. It’s difficult when our imaginations work against us like that. It only takes little comments from people to establish those little seeds of doubt in your mind.

  11. I can relate to all of these pretty well equally.

    1) When people tell me “others have it worse” or “life is so good, I just can’t see why you don’t see that” among other responses it makes me feel like no one understands or even wants to understand so why bother asking for help and sharing my feelings?

    2) I have been rejected so many times asking for help that that’s all I see. It’s hard to focus on the times people say yes because my brain is so trained toward the negative so I usually think “what’s the point?” (I’m working on changing that).

    3) I have felt used many times before, but I don’t ever really bring it up to those individuals because I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. I also don’t like conflict so it’s easier to say yes than it is to say no.

    4) I always feel like if I ask for help I’m burdening someone else when they have their own problems, so I just try to figure it out.

    5) I’m afraid to ask for favors sometimes because depending on the person they will want something in return and it may not be equal to what they’ve given. I don’t like owing people either, so having someone say they don’t want anything makes me feel worse for asking for help in the first place.

    6) I’m not a controlling person, but those few things I have control over are ALL I have, so I don’t want to lose that. I also don’t always feel that others will do things right or maybe even that they’ll do them better and make me feel incompetent.

    7) I feel that I should be strong and that I should be able to do everything myself because I have seen others do the same or more and not complain about it.

    8) By having to answer questions I believe that I’m giving the other person fuel against me in the future. If I let them in, they may decide to turn against me and then I will feel shunned and unable to fit in (which I already feel like I don’t belong anywhere).

    These points are all so true. Because I’ve been hurt many times in the past I’m too afraid to open myself up in the present and future because the more I get hurt the worse I feel about myself, and since I already feel pretty lousy and have low self-esteem I figure it’s easier to bottle it all up than ask for help and risk rejection.

  12. I jave just gone through a tereible nigjt at the hospital with my daughter and i felt so alone,unable to ask for help for about all the reasons you wrote here above.good to know i am not the only one and i want to read the book.

    1. Hi Marina, so sorry to hear that you were in hospital with your daughter. I hope everything is OK. It certainly can be a lonely thing when we feel unable to ask for help. I hope you manage to find some in the future.

  13. Numbers 1,4 & 8 are the most relatable to me! Another reason I’m reluctant to ask for help is because for some reason, I feel like people wouldn’t care about my problems. I keep thinking that they would just give me the quickest answer they can think of so I won’t ask anymore. I’m sure it’s all in my head because people I meet are always nicer than I think, but I still can’t stop thinking this way.

    1. Great to hear from you Stephanie! Yeah that’s definitely an understandable one – it relates to the fear of being a burden. And you’re right, most people are nicer than you expect. I’ve found that. Not always, but many people care more than I would ever expect them to. None of these mindsets have easy fixes – they take time!

  14. I go for #4 (burden) and #7 (self-reliance). I arrived at this article because I’m trying to find out why I can’t bring myself to ask people for letters of recommendation.

    I can think of another reason: 9. Past outcomes of asking for help were bad.

    I’ve asked for help, only to be insulted by that person.
    I’ve been promised help, but the other person never delivered.
    I’ve received help, but it was unsatisfactory.

    Here’s an example from yesterday. I’m trying to write a computer program that uses tools published by another programmer. The toolkit they publish has detailed instructions about setting up your program to implement their tools, and an example program.

    I followed the instructions, but could not get the program to work, so I asked the other programmer for help. He suggested I just use the example program as a starting point. I resisted the urge to reply, “Why the (expletive) do you publish the instructions if you admit they don’t work?!?!”

    Examples like this show you why I beat my brains out to figure out my own problems.

    1. Hi Mack,

      Yes that is a very good point. The impact of previous experiences can make it difficult to ask for help and I think we can be even more susceptible to feeling let down or annoyed when the help we need has been met with those responses: insults, a lack of delivery, or a lack of quality. Suddenly it becomes a huge risk for all kinds of reasons.

      I’ve had a very similar experience trying to use a wordpress plugin. I emailed the developer asking for help with an obvious problem and they replied very defensively with no help at all. When that happens I have the same reaction – I just think ‘well I’ll work it out myself then’. It just takes a lot longer than if I were to get effective help. I guess there is something of a need for reassurance that the help is going to be worth it.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  15. I go for 1 and 8 too. I do feel that a lot of people make too much of simple problems when really they are just being extrovert – sharing because that is what they do and how they get energy. Because I inwardly hate this I am reluctant to do it when I need help.

    But being self-reliant as an energy-saving thing is why it is easier for us to search a shop for our needed item before asking for help.

    Funnily enough I am now so well known as the parish priest at my local supermarket that I am getting better at asking for help because I don’t have to start any new relationships to do it. I see someone on the staff I know – Gina, Jane, Richard or Barabara – and know that asking them will not be draining.

    But I do find it more draining, for instance, to complain than to eat a badly cooked meal. So even if the meal is replaced I will remember a bad experience not a good one.

    Good post.

    1. I feel like I shouldn’t need to ask anyone for help.
      Most often I feel for some reason I don’t deserve help, I’m not worthy of it

  16. I can relate to this so much! Especially #s 1, 3 and 8. A
    different take on # 1 that I have is that instead of being told that I need to
    get over it, I feel that my introvert thinking powers allow me to consider
    several sides to the situation which means I often tell myself things aren’t
    that bad because I can think of other potential situations that are worse.
    Instead of this making me feel better (like how you can feel better when you
    focus on what you’re grateful for) it makes me feel bad about myself and even
    less likely to reach out.

    To your list of 8, I would add anticipating that you won’t
    get what you want or need by reaching out to another person given past
    experiences. Being a good listener, which many introverts are, often puts you
    in the position of being that person people lean on. Sometimes I don’t reach
    out because in the past when I have, expecting the same level of listening and
    care that I give, I would get either silence or “Don’t worry so much” and end
    up feeling worse off. To avoid this, I would tend to just try to help myself
    out of it through reading helpful books or writing in my journal. Thankfully
    this is happening less and less as I am learning how to nurture relationships
    with people who understand introversion, but I did struggle with not having
    those relationships for a while.

    1. Thanks Varonica! I love your take on #1 – it’s very true. I get that so much. It used to really paralyse me from taking action. Really interesting observation!

      And yes your additional point is also apt. It can be hard when you become someone that others lean on and you have to ‘manage’ your relationships. I don’t know about you but saying no is something I find hard. I’m also not very good at instigating social situations with people I like hanging out with. So it can get very de-energising. I guess it’s about finding some kind of balance because actually writing, reading, and thinking CAN be very helpful and may be what you need, but this should happen in conjunction with those relationships. Nail on the head when you say that these relationships should be with people who get you, and understand your introversion.

      Thanks so much for this contribution, Varonica. You’ve really got me thinking 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

You May Also Like