From the therapy room: Asking for help

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Cambridge April 2008 074a

Are you feeling more comfortable giving or receiving? Can you ask for help when you are struggling to complete a task by yourself or need support?

In these reflections shared by one of my clients she considers the inner obstacles that may prevent us from asking help and suggests some ways of overcoming them.


Asking for help

So many people find it hard to ask for help, whether it be at home, at work or to do with their physical and emotional wellbeing. We seem so worried about what other people might think: maybe we aren’t capable; maybe we can’t cope. What if they see that we aren’t as good as they thought or what if we see that we aren’t as good as we thought.

Recently I had a conversation about asking others for help. The overriding question that came out of that conversation was ‘Why do we find it so hard to ask?’ It got me thinking… I asked somebody to help me decorate my flat earlier this year, but it was several weeks after realising that I was not going to be able to do it on my own. Why did I wait so long? Maybe I was afraid to admit that I couldn’t do it on my own, maybe I was afraid to admit that I wasn’t good enough. I was afraid to ask.

Perhaps we all have areas of our lives where we find it easier to ask for help and areas where we are afraid to ask for help. Even though it took a while for me to ask for help it was important that I did because I didn’t have all the skills necessary to complete the work. Maybe I was afraid to admit that to myself and so I remained unhappy with where I was living for longer than I needed to and that affected my mood. I was living with a negative feeling for a long time and it led to other behaviours that caused pain, impacted on my productivity and prevented me from being happy.

How can we get out of this vicious circle?

Maybe asking for help isn’t just about us. Could we think more about the person we ask? Think about what happens when someone asks you for help. Do you think “Why are they asking me for help?  They are so useless anyone could do that” or do you think “They have asked for help, this is obviously important to them and they think I can help, I must do all that I can to help”.

How do we feel when someone asks us for help and what goes through our heads? I think the first thing that happens is that is makes us feel good. We often feel flattered because the person who asks for help obviously sees us as someone who is capable of helping. Whether it be our skills, our encouragement or/and our enthusiasm. Secondly we want to do all that we can, we want to do a good job and we want to live up to expectations. Lastly, it reminds us that it is ok to ask for help.

It takes a lot of courage to admit that you need help but, instead of thinking just about how you feel, think about how you can make that other person feel. The good feelings are contagious and maybe you can learn a new skill, so why not ask for help today. It will be worth it for both you and the person you ask.

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