Why do so many of us have a hard time asking for help? Whether it’s a difficult work project or the stress of parenting, everyone gets overwhelmed at times, yet we still are often resistant to reaching out to others in the hopes that they’ll help lighten our load. Maybe we’re afraid of looking imperfect and that others will think less of us. Or perhaps we’re afraid of rejection; we don’t want to be turned down. Other times, we feel awkward about inconveniencing someone else with our problems. And so often it happens that we’d rather give help than receive it. We try to keep up the façade that we have it all together all the time, but that’s such a huge lie! Part of being a human being is having limitations. No one can do it all. No one. We all need someone. We would literally die without each other. Everybody has a heavy burden to bear at some point or another, and one of the core purposes of relationships is to help support one another. I once worked with a client who was very hesitant to reach out for help when she needed it. Through therapy, we discovered that this was because growing up she had a weighty responsibility to care for others and believed it was her job to be the person who helps, not the person who needs help. Through understanding her own past, this woman came to understand that as an adult, she no longer needed to rescue the world; she could ask for assistance. Another reason we shouldn’t be afraid to reach out for help is because complete independence is impossible. Culturally, we seem to tout independence as this great thing to aspire to, but it’s not realistic or even desirable to try to achieve. As human beings, we are wired to connect with other people. To go against this is to try to defy nature. The goal is healthy interdependence. There’s a negotiation of give and take in our relationships. We can’t be taking all the time, but trying to only give throws us off balance as well. Asking for help (in moderation) demonstrates trust and helps build bonds of intimacy in friendships. Exposing your human limitations to someone shows that you’re willing to be vulnerable to them. When we don’t ask for help and instead just attempt to do things on our own, we’re missing out on an opportunity to build connections with another person. And it can actually be quite a compliment to ask someone else for his or her help. Think about when you’ve given help before and someone graciously received it. We all want to feel validated in making a difference in someone else’s life, and it’s a gift to feel like we are needed. Why not share that gift sometimes and ask for a close friend’s help? And finally, we need to get over being afraid of being turned down. If you ask for someone’s help, the worst thing he or she can say is “no”! It doesn’t need to be awkward or uncomfortable. I challenge you to not take a “no” answer as a personal rejection. It simply means the other person has limitations (as we all do) and is unable to offer assistance to you at the moment. And that’s okay! No need to misinterpret a “no” as meaning that someone doesn’t like you or thinks you’re unworthy of love. It might sting a little to be told “no” when you ask for help, but try to shake it off and remember that it’s not a reflection on you. What things in your life do you occasionally need help with? Who could you reach out to for it? Asking for help can benefit you and the other person, so I encourage you to consider opportunities in your life to put this into practice.
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