Today I had to ask for help.
I HATE asking for help.
I get uncomfortable. I start to sweat. I do everything I can to avoid it. I make excuses. I am overcome with fear. Sometimes I even cry about it. Seriously. I cry like a sobbing, red-faced, squealing baby.
I went for a walk today because I was so damn stressed out about having to ask for help, and as I walked I thought to myself, “You need to write about this, Katherine. Every day you tell your readers to ask for help, and you are practically incapable of doing it yourself.”
Somewhere along the line I convinced myself that asking for help is a bad thing. It doesn’t matter whether it’s with my nonprofit, or for postpartum depression, or mothering, or anything else; it scares me to death. What the hell is that about?!
I mentioned this on Twitter and was very grateful to hear from other women who feel the same way. I’m not the only one with this social phobia.
1) Fear of rejection
@postpartumprog (that’s me!) tweeted: “What if they say no? It will feel like an indictment of me and my worth.”
@mama_strick tweeted: “One time 2 years ago I called 3 people asking for help with something. No one would. That still stings. A lot.”
2) Fear of seeming weak or incapable
@alisonpalmer79 tweeted: “I think it’s because women fear being weak, especially mums. You have so much in life to balance & don’t want to be judged as a bad mother.”
@christinaRTS tweeted: “For me, saying it out loud is admitting failure.”
@mommasgonecity tweeted: “I’ll go to every extreme before asking for help. I think I fear admitting failure.”
@freelanceliz tweeted: “I hate it. Think it’s an admission of failure. Everyone else copes.”
@sassyladyj tweeted: “I fear acknowledging my own weakness and vulnerability. It’s hard to accept that asking for help is a sign of strength.”
3) Fear of being a burden
@birthingkristen tweeted: “I always worry that I’m being a burden on others … even though I’m always one to jump in and OFFER help happily to others.”
@verybadcat13 tweeted: “I don’t want to be resented, feel like I should be able to do everything alone, hate burdening folks.”
@designhermomma tweeted: “I think we fear ‘putting people out’, but in reality, people love to feel needed.”
4) Belief that we shouldn’t have to ask for help
@judypackrat tweeted that we also don’t ask for help: “Because it’s so painfully obvious we need help, we think someone will pick up on it!”
5) Fear of losing control
@atlantamom tweeted: “My issue is control. Letting someone else help makes me feel guilty, out of control & like I’m not as efficient as I should be.”
Check all of the above. Guilty as charged on all counts. When I have to say “help me please”, it feels as though it means I can’t do something on my own that I guess I thought I should be able to do. Then I live in fear that I’ll be rejected, that I might put myself in the most vulnerable place possible and have someone say I’m not worthy of their help, or not care that I need help, or be annoyed by my request.
Today I made myself do it. I asked for help on a project I’m doing. I didn’t do it with joy and great courage. Nope. I waited until the last minute. I agonized. I held my nose. But I did it. And I’m not dead, so it must not have killed me.
There is certain to be some percentage of rejection of my request, and I have got to learn to make myself be okay with that. Maybe you can do the same with me. Maybe today or tomorrow you can make the request you’ve been avoiding. We can stew in our discomfort together.
Sometimes in life we must bite down on the proverbial leather strap and do what we cannot stand. Because it’s good for us. Because we really can’t do it all on our own. Because at least 70% of the time when we ask for help people probably will help, right? Maybe a little more, maybe a little less, but we’re missing the 70 to avoid the 30. (That doesn’t seem like smart math.) We shouldn’t be turning people down before they have the chance to step in.
Many of them will want to help because they care. And when they do help, most of the time they’ll make things better, not worse.
Still, asking for help does suck.