What to do when you do not know how to ask for help

Asking for help does not come easy to some of us as it does to others. For those of us that struggle in that way, the following words “Don’t worry about me” “I’ll be fine. I can take care of myself” “Why should I burden someone else with my troubles” have at some point been our response to someone offering us kind assistance and to our own desire to reach out. Other times, it was silence and lonely suffering.

We have an idea of who we should be and what parts of us are acceptable enough to be expressed. Unfortunately, the vulnerability and openness that comes with being seen as a person in need of assistance is not welcome. Some of us fear being rejected thinking that if we asked no one will truly be able to help us the way we need to be helped or that we would not be helped at all. Sometimes, we worry that if we asked the person offering their assistance would take advantage of our vulnerability and use that to control us or our decisions. We worry that accepting their help will make us indebted to them. We fear being judged, criticized; being seen as incapable or unintelligent.

However, every time we are in need of assistance and we deny ourselves that opportunity, we lose out of life’s gifts that we crave for: genuine relationships, personal and professional growth, feeling connected to others, self-respect and respect from others, self-love, joy, intimacy, courage, and lower stress levels.

Getting help is fundamental to our growth. At every stage of our life, from birth to death, we will need the assistance of another person or people to help us get on. We will have to depend on other people so that we can move forward and learn.

It is okay if you do not know how to ask for help. Many of us do not and that is because we were not taught to properly.

Here are a few suggestions to help you start practicing asking for help

  1. Re-orient your mind: Asking for help is as important and necessary as breathing in air. Everyone deserves to help and be helped. It is okay to be seen as weak and vulnerable because it is an inescapable true part of being human. We are not always strong and we do not have it all figured out. Your weakness, confusion and vulnerability is not a definition of you but a step on your path to growth.
  2. Make a daily record of how often you ask for help and from who. If you have no one or you find that you are often the one lending assistance to those around you, you will have to balance your relationships with more givers i.e. you will have to find people who are good at offering help. If not, you will feel drained from helping others and receiving no assistance of your own.
  3. Make a list of things that you need help with and start asking for help. Start with the small and easy things like: asking a colleague at work for help, asking a stranger for help with carrying your bag, giving you change or sharing their lighter.
  4. While asking for help take note of the feelings it brings up in you. It’ll help to write them down and have them analyzed when you are in a calmer environment. Why did I get scared when I was going to ask Chioma to help me with doing the dishes? Why did I reject Tunde’s offer to assist me with preparing for the presentation? Why could I not ask Ifeanyi to be there for me when I needed help with that work task? Why did I not share honestly when Nosa asked me how I was doing?
  5. Take note of other people’s responses to your request for help. Finding the right people to ask for help is as important as asking for it. There are people who are willing to help but they do not know how to respond to your requests or they handle it in a poor fashion that leaves you feeling small or silly for asking for help. It is best to avoid asking such people for help and focus on those that are supportive and leave you feeling refreshed and enlightened.

Keep asking and keep offering your own help. Be patient with yourself while you do so. Celebrate yourself when you make little successes in this task because those little steps are what matter the most.

musings of a 29 year old woman living and working in Lagos, Nigeria.