To ask for help can feel daunting or even impossible if we are used to doing everything ourselves. But it can also be a skill that can truly change our lives, leaving us feeling supported, unstuck and moving forward, and less alone.
So how can you ask for help from others in a healthy way that improves your relationships instead of causing issues?
Really the first step here is realigning your thinking to understand that everyone needs help now and then. It's human, and we are here to help each other.
If you have resistance to this, it will be because of past difficult experiences that gave you negative beliefs about your worth. But you are worthy of help, and you don't have to do something to 'earn' help. You just have to ask for it. Other people take joy out of helping, whether that feels strange to you or not.
And the secret is not to wait until you 'feel good' asking for help. But to ask for help even if it feels uncomfortable for you. What CBT therapy calls a 'behavioural intervention', acting despite our thinking. It gets easier with practice.
Before asking for help, it's important to be clear about what you need assistance with. Take some time to think about the problem you're facing, and what specific help you require. Write down your thoughts and organise them in a clear and concise manner so that you can communicate your needs effectively, and try to only ask for one thing at a time.
There is some wisdom in really being honest with yourself over whether you are self-sabotaging by asking someone to help who deep down you know probably won't. This is the way core beliefs work. If our unconscious holds an old belief that 'I am not worthy of help', then it will push you to do things that 'prove' this view of the world 'true';.
Think about who would be the best person to help you with your problem. Consider their skills, knowledge, and experience. And if they are actually someone you trust and feel comfortable with.
Another way to sabotage asking for help is with phrases like, "'you probably are too busy', or, "You probably don't want to, but'..". .
Don't clutter up your request with such excuses or bluster. Be honest and straightforward. I would like to ask if you can help me with "--". Be specific about what you need.
And don't panic if they take a moment to think about it and fill the space in the conversation with sabotaging phrases like the above. Take a deep breath, and if the other person really does seem uncomfortable, offer them time to think about it.
Don't assume you know why they can't help. People are complex and sometimes private creatures. They might have more going on then you realise, or even feel insecure about their ability to help out.
Instead, be proud of yourself for trying. Then gather up your courage and ask someone else. Remember, asking for help requires practise and gets easier. So see it as a trial run.
Whether they do or don't agree to help you, show your gratitude. Thank them for thinking about it if they say no. By showing other people you value them regardless, it means they are more likely to help you in the future.
If they say yes, then of course thank them for their commitment to help.
If we never ask for help it's worth asking, do I give help? Sometimes to create an openness to others helping us it can be a good start to become a helper ourselves.
Note this does not apply if you are an over-giver who constantly helps but struggles to receive. In this case it's worth learning about codependency, where you are gaining a sense of self from doing what you think others want. And perhaps start learning to say no to others and yes to yourself a bit more.
Aside from codependency, what else might be holding you back from being able to ask for help?
Trust issues are a common problem here. Again, these tend to come from difficult past experiences, where we decided we can't trust anyone. We need to try trusting if we are to allow others to help us.
Low self-esteem is also common. If we don't think we are worthy of asking for help, then it can be very overwhelming to do so.
We can be afraid of being rejected. This relates to self-esteem. It an also be related to childhood trauma that damaged our sense of self.
Finally, there is perfectionism and control issues. It can be very challenging to let others do things for us if we worry only we can do things perfectly. Asking for help then becomes a process of learning to let go and accept. Sometimes getting things done in an okay manner is better than falling behind as we are trying to manage everything alone.
Think the above is you? That you have trust issues, low self-esteem, perfectionism or otherwise?
Don't overlook talk therapy as a way to help. Not least as it directly involves allowing another person to help. It can feel easier as it's a professional you are paying to help, but can open the door to being more open to help in life in general.
Time to stop feeling alone and unsupported and get proper help? Use our easy booking tool to find a therapist you like at a price you can afford.
Andrea M. Darcy is a mental health and wellbeing expert and writer with training in person-centred counselling. Follow her on Instagram for useful life tips @am_darcy