“I’m really bad at asking for help. You see, I like to help other people but I just find it really hard to ask for help myself”
When I say this, I get lots of people nodding and saying “yeah, me too”. We’re so busy giving that we are just not used to asking for ourselves, right? It’s our natural generosity and desire to serve getting in the way.
Bullshit. We’re just being selfish. And it’s counter-productive.
We’re being selfish because this is really all about our own rubbish, the little tapes we are running in our heads. It’s our subconscious protecting us in some way, it’s got nothing to do with anyone else. Whether it’s something to do with vulnerability or a mis-guided concept of self-reliance, whether it’s to do with feeling virtuous or perhaps lacking the self-confidence to ask for what we need, it’s all about us. We don’t ask for help because we get some sort of gain from denying ourselves in this way.
And we’re being selfish because we are denying others the opportunity to do the very thing we like to do so much. Helping people makes us feel great, doesn’t it? It releases serotonin and oxytocin and makes us feel all warm and happy. So why don’t we create the opportunities for others to feel these positive emotions by letting them help us?
But here’s another thing. It’s actually counter-productive because it inhibits us, it stops us helping others as much as we are capable of.
I found this out very recently when I asked for some help. I had got myself into a bit of a pickle with something and I needed some technical help to sort it out. In the past I would have probably struggled on by myself, partly to hide my embarrassment at getting into the situation in the first place and because I would have to share some information that I felt sensitive about. It probably wouldn’t have ended well and would have been expensive to resolve, emotionally and financially.
I decided I would break my pattern, so I screwed up the courage to ask someone I knew had the skill and knowledge in this area. Expecting it to be a difficult and embarrassing experience, I asked for their help. “Sure”, they said, “no problem”. They were efficient, knowledgeable, friendly and completely non-judgemental. It was embarrassing or difficult at all, it was easy. In fact, it they were just like I would have been if I was helping them (who knew?).
Not only did my problem get solved, saving me much anguish, frustration and expense, it felt really good. I felt that I had some support, that I had someone I could lean on in the future is I needed to. I wouldn’t have to battle through by myself because now had more resources at my disposal.
Encouraged by this, I asked a couple of other people for help with a couple of different issues and the experience was just the same.
So now I feel like I have a group of people I can call upon when I need them, to get their support and expertise to help me through difficult moments. That’s makes me feel stronger, more powerful, more resourceful. And that means I feel like I can help even more people. Now I can see how I can raise my game and have more impact with more people.
It turns out that asking for help unleashes this massive virtuous circle. The more you allow others to help you, the more you can help others, and every one feels much more connected and fulfilled in the process.
So get over yourself, start asking for help and stop being so bloody selfish.