Most of us have a difficult time asking for help. I see it in myself; in my friends and colleagues. I see it in my kids and their friends. And I certainly see it in many of the people I work with. So why don’t we ask for help – especially when we need it?
Often, it takes courage to ask for help.
It seems simple, right? When you don’t know how to do something you ask someone who does. With their help the learning curve lessens and you spend less time being stuck and more time getting things done.
But we think that asking comes with a price. We risk being seen as unintelligent or incapable. We risk people judging us. We create some story in our minds that this should be simple. Or we believe we should know how to ‘do it.’ And when it’s not simple or we don’t know how we get stuck judging ourselves for what we don’t know.
And that’s the crux of why we don’t ask for help – we’re too busy judging ourselves.
Somewhere along the way we’ve bought into the idea that we should just know how to do things. And there’s no place more obvious than with having our business online.
Whether it’s how to use our website to get clients or what to do when people signup for our email list, we believe that somehow we should just know what to do. It doesn’t matter if we’ve ever done it before or not. And it seems to not matter whether we’ve been successful or not.
Through some sort of osmosis or intergalactic stream of knowledge, we should just know how to be successful.
Yet, this flies in the face of everything we’ve ever learned
Think about everything you know how to do. There was a point in your life when you didn’t know how to do it. You could even say there was a point when you actually couldn’t do it. From walking and talking to reading and writing. There was a point when you couldn’t walk or read. Now, in most cases, you do these things with such ease that you don’t have to think about them.
How did you learn to walk or talk? With someone’s help. Sure, you may have been one of those toddlers who just got up and walked one day – I was. But we know that we spent months watching the people around us walk. So we had teachers, guides, coaches right from the beginning.
Getting help is fundamental to learning how to do things well
I can hear your objection, ‘but we all learn to walk and talk unless there’s something physically wrong with us. It’s just a natural part of being a person.’
Great, so let’s leave childhood development and talk about life skills. You’ve learning to bathe, to brush your teeth, to put on makeup, to take care of your body. You’ve learned to cook, do laundry and open a bank account. None of these are part of our development. They’re learned skills.
You’ve likely learned to drive a car or ride a bike. You’ve learned about many different topics in school and through your work. In many cases you’ve learned the skills to have a career or take care of a home. And maybe you golf, play tennis, swim, etc. What I want you to think about is that there’s not one single thing you know how to do that wasn’t learned. Everything you do – everything – you’ve learned at some point.
The path from knowing how to being good or great requires help
You can learn how to hit a golf ball on your own. But to hit it accurately requires the help of someone who knows more than you do. You may be able to cook really well from reading cookbooks. But you won’t be a gourmet chef without learning from a gourmet chef.
Of course I can go on with examples. Athletics provides endless ones. But I think you get the point – to be good at something you need help.
So why don’t we ask for help?
From my experience there are 5 fundamental reasons why we don’t ask for help – even when we need it:
1. We don’t want to be judged as weak
It’s easy to believe that asking for help is a sign of weakness – even failure. For many of us this belief sets in early. Subtle messages when we’re kids get inflated over time until we feel that getting help means we’re weak. Yet even the most successful people in the world have had coaches and mentors. Professional athletes are obvious. But even the most wealthy and successful in other areas have had help to reach their success. Sure, Warren Buffet is a great example. But he’s not someone we readily connect to. Think of someone you know who you see as successful and ask them yourself if they had any help along the way.
Why we don’t ask for help Tip 1: You’re weak if you ask for help. Rather, you’re in elite company if you do. People that are successful know what they don’t know as much as they know what they do. And what they don’t know they get help with. You can do the same.
2. We don’t want to be rejected
All of us have had experiences of being rejected. And often these are some of the most painful things we’ve been through. Just thinking about those experiences makes our heart race, turns our stomach and makes us shake with fear. So it only make sense to avoid being rejected. Yet when we focus on the rejection so strongly we forget all the times that we were accepted. And if we’re really honest we’ve been accepted many more times in our lives than rejected. We just remember the rejections because they hurt.
Why we don’t ask for help Tip 2: Take a few minutes and remember 5 experiences where you’ve felt great after being accepted. Maybe it’s when you got engaged or got accepted to college. The point is what you focus on expands. If you focus on being rejected than those experiences take over. But if you change your focus to the times you’ve gotten what you wanted then those feelings expand.
3. We don’t want to be a bother or pest
The last thing we ever want to be is a burden on others. We’ll do everything we can to avoid it like the plague. Sometimes we even make stories up about how we’ll be a burden just so we don’t ask for help. However, there are people out there whose work is to help you. You’ll never be a burden on them. The way through this fear is to just ask for help.
Why we don’t ask for help Tip 3: Do you best to not make up stories. Most of us do this in some way. We listen to our fears and insecurities more than our truth. And listening to our fears we start to create stories that are nothing more than fiction. Don’t listen to your stories. Just start by asking for help.
4. We should be capable of doing it on our own
This one is so true in business. As independent people we think we should be able to do it all. We’re good at our work so it only make sense that we should be good at everything else in running our business as well. This can especially be true if our work is to help others. But think about it for a second. Are you really better at bookkeeping and taxes than your accountant? Of course not. Doing your own taxes probably means you’re loosing money. The same is true with website design, marketing, social media, etc.
Why we don’t ask for help Tip 4: I’ve been through this myself. I thought I could do it all. Now I have a small team of people who help me. And honestly, I’ve had coaches and mentors at different times. All have been helpful to me. Most importantly, all have shown me how to do things better, faster and get better results. Ask for help.
5. We’re unworthy of help
Not feeling worthy of help often underlies the reasons above. Deep down we’re afraid that we’re just not good enough to ask for people’s help. Usually this is because we either don’t believe enough in ourselves or in what we’re doing. Maybe we love our work but don’t really feel worthy of doing it. After all, if you’re a life coach and your life isn’t perfect, maybe you shouldn’t be coaching other people.
Honestly, the idea that you’re not good enough is poppycock. No matter what your life or business look like you have plenty to offer. This isn’t to blow sunshine up your skirt. You have a lot to offer even if you don’t always feel worthy.
Why we don’t ask for help Tip 5: To be successful you have to put your feelings in check. The days you feel good are easy. But the days you feel bad about yourself are harder. They key to success is most often consistency. That means you want to keep going forward on those days you feel bad. Learn to not let the negative feelings stop your progress. Often we can’t do that on our own. So what should we do…right – ask for help!
I truly doubt that anyone has ever been successful without help. Athletes have coaches. Successful business people have mentors. Even kids have parents to help them. We all need help from time-to-time. Don’t let these 5 beliefs hold you back from getting the help you need.
So what’s stopping you from getting help? Why don’t you ask for help – even when you need it?