Why you might not be asking for help

This might be the ubuntu in me speaking but I don’t think one can thrive in this world without help. Yet I have glorified not needing help so much that I have to keep fighting all my instincts to ask for it. Going into this year I knew I wouldn’t make it without help so I paid for it to avoid asking for it – I got an amazing career coach, I got on skillshare, I found a therapist… To my disappointment I still had to to ask for help from people around me! The anxiety I felt every time I had to ask for a meeting or a consult or a friend’s opinion was unusual. However, the feeling I got after receiving the help I asked for far outweighed the initial anxiety. This is why I believe that as difficult as asking for help is for me, maybe the end result is worth conquering the feelings of shame, the need for independence, the assumption of being a burden, the fear of rejection, the love for preemption and the inability to communicate boundaries for.

  1. Feeling shame

Why is there so much shame attached to asking for help when so many of us need it? There’s just something about being in the position of asking for help that makes me feel like I did not do enough. Like I am lazy, stupid, slow, not proactive enough or a disgrace. To be honest, some of these are usually true but they are not the full story. Asking for help also means that I am self-aware enough to identify my opportunities of growth; that I am confident enough to approach someone for help; that I understand that some times my environment and not me have resulted in my insufficiencies and it doesn’t mean that I can’t change my present situation; that I have a growth mindset and won’t sit with my questions or problems but find ways to answer and solve them. All these considered, maybe pride should actually replace all that unnecessary shame.

2. Needing to be independent

I read somewhere how people with social anxiety are driven to such high levels of achievement in an effort to avoid not having to depend on other people for help. I resonated with this because I find it easier to go out of my way and learn or earn something from scratch than to have to ask somebody. In as much as that person may help me figure things out in 5 minutes, I think it sucks to be at the mercy of someone else. Also, people will let you down (this is one of the lessons I shared on Issue#2 of Chai with Chebet) so it is better to be in control. Unfortunately, I have been learning that it is not that easy to be in full control and to achieve everything by myself without sacrificing my wellbeing in the process so ask I must.

3. Not knowing how to ask 

How does one ask for help when they have no idea how to? Questions like: Should this be a text, an email or an in person meeting? Should I have that other conversation before this one? Is there a template for how I should frame this? What is the best time for them to receive this request? What is their personality like? Do they expect payment for this? Is this enough notice? abound. And by the time I am done guessing the answers to these questions I have even talked myself out of asking for that help. Kwanza, the worst is when you did not manage a certain connection as well you should have like sending a potential mentor updates or blue ticking a human whose help you now need. Nevertheless, I am starting to ask more and pre-empt less. So now it is:  Hey is this a good time to speak? I am sorry for not getting back to you on this, could we have a call soon? I know we have an unfinished conversation, but may I quickly pass something by you? Do you expect payment for this?…It is definitely easier said than done but I am trying.

4. Feeling like a burden

Most times what I need help with feels so heavy or deep for me that I feel it will be an unnecessary burden to the other person. But I think that’s usually me projecting because I am terrible at stating and keeping boundaries with people when they ask too much. I am learning to let people be the ones to tell me whether what I am asking of them is beyond their capability. I also found that the things that seem heavy for me are usually lighter for the other person because they may have the benefit of objectivity or experience. 

5. Fearing rejection

I know what they say about how not asking means you are getting a no anyway but aki there is just a way actually hearing that “no” hits different. At least when I don’t ask I am not invested and don’t have to wait on people’s responses. So why lay myself bare and take the risk? I don’t have a solution for this one yet because I feel rejection actually hurts more than people care to admit. It isn’t just as easy as falling down 7 times and getting up 8. Some blows have you preferring to build a home on the ground! Knowing this has helped me be gentler with myself especially when I don’t ask for or receive help. I am also working extra hard to depersonalise rejection because wow the million ways I make people’s actions and decisions about my short comings is not healthy at all.

6. Believing there is no such thing as free lunch

This is one of the earliest lessons I learnt while growing up. I also read about it in Economics class and as one of the 48 laws of power. I dislike transactional relationships the most yet that’s all capitalism seems to be built on. So, to survive I have had to internalise the rules so much that I am scared of asking or receiving help. Because what happens when they call in a favour and I can’t refuse because they have helped me before? I have had to interrogate why I think I can’t refuse and remind myself that I shouldn’t feel pressured to give what I don’t want to or don’t have. Also some people are genuinely just happy to help and don’t need all the thanksgiving ceremonies and repayments I assumed they required.

Once, I jumped these hurdles I realised asking for help is actually not that bad. Surprisingly, I also found that people are more willing to help than I thought. Therefore, I am doing it more and more  and even starting to enjoy it.

Does asking for help come easy to you?

If yes, please teach me your ways! If no, how else do you do it? (asking for a friend who is asking for help more but also thinks it won’t hurt to not have to need it as often🙃🙈).