How do you ask for help?

Credit: Love the wind - Fotolia

Seriously, I’m asking you, because I’ve struggled with this my entire life.

This struggle has led me to a place where I believe many of my friends don’t think I want help, let alone need help. I act as if I can do it all on my own, as if I’m super strong and handling this working mom-thing just fine. ‘ACT’ being the key word here, because I falter all the time. Of course I can’t do it all alone. I’m a single mother of two, working full-time. I need a ton of help. But I wouldn’t dare ask for it.
I have difficulty asking my friends, my family, my co-workers, anyone really. It always makes me feel like I’m putting a burden on someone that I don’t want to put there.

In return, I often feel burdened as well when people ask me for help. Even though I love helping them, I don’t feel like I have the option to say ‘no’ to a request for help. So it ends up not feeling like a request, but rather like a demand. And I’m so overwhelmed with day-to-day life (having to do it all on my own, obviously), that I just don’t see how I could do any more.

Both of these states are obviously intertwined. The reason I don’t want to ask people for help is because I feel like I will burden them, and the reason I feel this way is because I often feel burdened when I’m asked. Or is it the other way around? It works in both directions, like a tightly wound up coil that just runs on forever.

It’s not like I never GET help now. I do. I have friends who offer help, which I then feel guilty about accepting. And my parents, family and ex-husband do what they can. But through my hesitation in accepting help, and not being open about how much I need it, I’m taking away part of their pleasure in helping me. I’m doing them a disservice as well as myself. I can still express my gratitude, but it’s somehow not as powerful.

How do I break free from this cycle?
I had a long and vulnerable conversation with a close friend about this (really the best therapists there are, if you have a friend who can be there for you) and I am figuring out little by little what’s holding me back from asking for help. The limiting beliefs that are in the way (I need to do it everything on my own to be strong, for example), and the way I shut down feeling any needs because of the fear that I’ll be vulnerable, and that those needs won’t be met.

And I’m starting with little steps. I’ve talked to my mother about how hard it is to ask for help, and to say ‘no’ when asked. I’m trying to consciously, deliberately, openly ask for help in the little things.
And I’m trying to step out of the survival mode from time to time, to make room for my feelings of unease and see them for what they are: limitations that once may have protected me from pain, but now no longer serve me. I can take the vulnerability now. That’s where my strenght lies as well.

How do you feel about asking for help? Is it something you’ve had to learn over time or has it always come easy to you? And what do you do when it doesn’t?

5 thoughts on “How do you ask for help?

  1. Sounds so like me: I never asked for help, but say yes to anyone who asks me for help. This latter is an intrinsic part of me, I genuinely want to help others, but because of this desire to help, I am too quick in saying “yes” and only afterwards realise I have neither the time nor the energy to spare, so the help comes at a personal cost to myself. I suppose this is the “burden” you are talking about? Personally I never thought to link these two together: giving help feels like a burden, so I don’t ask for help because I don’t want to burden others. So true, now I think about it. In recent years I’ve been learning on both fronts: I’ve learned to ask and gracefully accept help from others through renovating my house (I simply could not do that by myself so i had no choice), and I learned a little trick to deal with my being too eager to help, that might help you too: never say yes or no, but say that you need to think about it or check your calendar. This will give you time to carefully consider the request and check if you can give the required help without it coming at a personal cost to yourself. It also gives you time to, if needed, prepare how you will say “no”. I hope this little insight is as helpful to you as yours was to me 😉


    1. That’s a great tip indeed! I will definitely take that with me. Thank you!
      I’m hoping to do some renovating next year as well (the bathroom) and will definitely need to ask for help there too. I’m sure it will be challenging and rewarding in many ways 😉


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