It’s a common occurrence: this sense of being obliged to do things on your own when realistically we need assistance to get it done properly, or done at all. There seems to be an internal process that keeps us from going down that road. Maybe we have been brought up to stick to our own guns, grit our teeth and do things on our own. Asking for help may have been regarded as showing weakness, or there is an element of pride in not asking. Perhaps we are afraid of owing someone something, or of being seen as incapable of finishing a certain task. We may simply be too shy to ask for help or feel that we cannot ask anyone because they have their own stuff to deal with.
I’m sure you’ll be able to think of a situation where at least one of the above reasons applied to you, and you held back on asking for help. Think back to that moment and analyse why you didn’t ask. Find the REAL reason you did not ask, as serious or ridiculous it may sound to you! And then be honest with yourself and answer the following question: Do you believe asking for help in that instance would have made things easier for you?
Most likely you’ll have to reply with a ‘Yes’. Can you remember which reasons you gave yourself to hold back for many – if not all – of those instances? Probably not, those original reasons have long since evaporated because they were either superficial or they are so engrained in your psyche that you don’t even realise they affect your thinking to start with.
Now let’s imagine what would have changed if you had asked for help?
One thing is certain: you wouldn’t have struggled with that task as much! You might call the struggle a challenge, a learning experience or ‘character building’, but the matter of the fact remains the same: you have lost time and energy over something that could have been a simple thing, if only you had asked. Of course, it does take a bit of soul searching and crossing your own boundaries to ask, but believe me: once you get going, you’ll become more skilled at deciding when it’s time to go it alone, and when asking for help is the better option. And you’ll be all the better for it.
Quite apart from making life easier on yourself, asking for help could have a profound effect on the person you end up asking. That someone else might actually enjoy the task you struggle with, they might be delighted to be asked for help, enthusiastic in teaching you something they needed to pass on, or they may just be happy for you to have had the courage to ask. Just imagine: you might actually have done someone a favour by asking!
Why do we hesitate to ask for help?
Each of us has a set of beliefs that we accumulate throughout our life: some are rooted in our family upbringing, some come from our peers, some from school and further education, some from the workplace, religious beliefs, and many other sources. It is usually pretty much impossible to pinpoint where they came from originally. The point is that we hold certain things to be true, and that really is the starting point for any investigation into our motivations.
Wherever our beliefs – or should we call them ‘boundaries’, ‘habits’, ‘tics’? – came from, none of them are insurmountable, and most of them can be changed with proper incentive. Any desire for change of those must come from inside, though. Being forced has never achieved any lasting change, the trick is to start seeing that there is a ‘better way’ and really believing in that better way.
Returning to the above example: whatever has held you back from asking for help (and only YOU need to know what it really was!), maybe it’s time to reconsider the reasoning and let go of it. It’s not easy, I know that from my own ongoing struggles, but I can honestly say that I have managed to change certain ideas and habits by finding out why I held on to them in the first place.
Common elements for me are ‘sense of security’, ‘being used to doing things a certain way’, ‘being afraid of change’, ‘belief in the material things above experiences’, and some others. One of the things I have realised is that I don’t need a lot of stuff to remind me of my own past: if I suddenly am reminded of something I hadn’t thought about for a long time it comes to me as a lovely surprise rather than remorse that I had forgotten about this.
As for asking for help, I’m certainly a late bloomer myself. My parents made sure to make me believe that I have to be able to do everything myself and on my own, and it took me a good long time to understand that this is not true at all times. I never understood that perseverance is a good thing in moderation only, and that more often it will hold me back. I have learned to ask for help more freely since then, and have enjoyed receiving and giving assistance much more ever since.
Maybe you should give it a go?
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Hi, my name is Tilo Flache. My current mission: help my clients declutter mind and space.
This blog contains pointers for your journey towards a happier living experience.