Logically, we know we can’t do anything alone. This means we need to reach out and ask for help. But it’s still something many of us struggle with, even though we will readily give help to someone else.
Brené Brown points out “when you cannot ask for help without self-judgment, you are never really offering help without judgment, because you have attached judgment to asking for help.”
I’m a strong and independent woman. I’ve had to work really had on asking for help when I need it, and I’ve needed it a lot lately. As I’ve been working on this, I’ve paid attention to some of my mental programming that keeps me from asking for help. Part of me doesn’t want me inconvenience others, or boss them around.
Lately, I’ve discovered another mental block I have around asking for help. I’ll know that I need help, but I don’t know what would be most helpful. Would it be more helpful for someone to do this task for me? Would it be more helpful for someone to watch my kid so I can do this task? Would it be more helpful for someone to take another task I have so I can focus on this one?
I get stalled out here, then tend to plow on ahead without asking anyone for help. Then I look back with a mix of pride at my badassery for working it out myself and frustration with myself, knowing I really should have stopped and asked for help.
Here are some things I have been working on to get better about asking for help.
Build your team
I’ve had to build my team of people. I’ve actually had to build a team of teams. I have people I can ask for help with watching my kid, people I can ask for help with the cars, people I can ask for business advice, people I can ask for help with things around the house.
Most importantly, you need to have a “move a body” friend. A “move a body” friend is a friend you can call at any time, with any challenge, who will not judge you and still be respectful when they see you again.
Manage your expectations
When you ask someone for help, results can vary. When you delegate a task to someone else, they may not complete it exactly as you intended. When you ask them for help with one thing, they may tell you they can’t help with that, but can help with something else.
I’ve really been working hard on this bit. When I ask for help, it feels very urgent for me, but that doesn’t mean it’s urgent for someone else. I’ve had to mange my expectations (and be more clear) on the realistic timelines of when I need help and when they can offer it.
To manage your resources, and your sanity, you need to set boundaries. You need to be clear on what is okay and what is not okay. Your boundaries need to be respected. This means you need to respect other’s boundaries as well.
Say you’re asking for help, and the other person isn’t able to provide the exact help you need or in the timeline you had in mind. It’s easy to get frustrated and want to just plow ahead and do it yourself and write off asking for help for good. To help me respect someone else’s boundaries, I like to flip roles in my mind. If someone asked me for help, and I couldn’t offer the help they were asking for or in the timeline they had in mind, I would feel bad that I couldn’t help better, but I also would want them to respect the boundaries, bandwidth and resources I have in that moment. Knowing this helps me respect their boundaries in that moment.
Do you struggle with asking for help? What has helped you ask for help?
Brown, B. (2013, March 21). Finding Shelter in a Shame Storm (and Avoiding the Flying Debris). Retrieved from http://www.oprah.com/spirit/brene-brown-how-to-conquer-shame-friends-who-matter/all.
Capretto, L. (2017, December 7). The Damaging Way Women Respond To Distress. Retrieved from https://www.huffpost.com/entry/brene-brown-self-criticism-compassion_n_4848895.