In chapter 6 in my autobiographical self-help book, Find the Upside of the Down Times, I describe my experience of being audited by the IRS and my fears about not having enough money. Anybody else ever had that fear, especially in these challenging economic times? Through that experience I learned a most important lesson, namely that,
Asking for help is an act of strength & confidence, not an act of weakness.
This is not an easy lesson to learn. Asking for help requires facing the need for help. Many of us would rather not, for many reasons, but mainly because even the thought of asking for help can be uncomfortable, much less the actual asking. Asking for help is like openly and publicly admitting a mistake or weakness, a flaw or inadequacy. For anyone who grew up being criticized
for not being good enough (most of us), any focus or attention on being anything less than enough can be painful. For instance, did you ever have a pretty good report card, but with one grade less than the others, and the first words out of a parent’s mouth was, “So, what wrong here?,” pointing to the lowest grade and ignoring the higher ones?
Asking for help has often been a challenge for me. I’m guessing for you, too. I would much rather plow through trying to figure out how to do something I don’t know anything about, particularly if it has to do with computers, than find someone who actually knows. But I’ve learned the hard way it is really a lot easier, and the results are often a lot better (duh!) whenever I invite others to share their expertise and knowledge to help me accomplish my goals and tasks.
There have been so very many goals in my past that remained unrealized mainly because of this difficulty I have had asking for help. I would start one project, hit a snag, and then go off and start another. This is a habit I am working hard to change. But it’s a habit, so it will require constantly making a change. Knowing that asking for help is a good thing, believing that it actually is evidence of strength does makes it easier to do. But the habit of not asking is what happens first. I have to remember to move through it quicker. (Take a look at my post on Turning A Worry Into A Goal.)
Maybe this “asking for help” is a challenge for you, too? If so, try the following 5 step process also outlined at the end of chapter 6. You’ll get the idea by just reading through the 5 steps, but you will have a completely different experience when you invest the time and energy to complete each list. Trust me.
It is important to have the courage to admit to yourself that everyone needs help from time to time, including you. But instead of assuming this means something negative about yourself, consider the positive opposite possibility. Assume it could mean something positive. For instance, it does mean you are willing to learn and grow, and that can be a very good thing. The very fact that you are open to receiving help means that you have courage to make a change happen. And isn’t it true that you are grateful when people you care about ask for your help? What are the chances that they will be grateful when you ask for their help, as well?
Maybe you shouldn’t start with the biggest challenge in your life! We all need to build positive momentum by working first on the elementary-school lessons. So let’s start small. Here are 5 steps you can cut and paste in to a text document to fill out your own answers. Don’t just think about it, write them down. You will get so much more.
1. Make a list of some things on which you have been reluctant to ask for help.
2. Make a list of all the bad things it might mean about you if you asked someone (friend, family member, professional) for help.
3. Make a list of two or three good friends whom you would be happy to help with their problems if they asked you.
4. Make a list of two or three emotions you would feel if your friend(s), or people whom you respect, asked you for help. Describe why you would feel that way.
5. Make a list of the positive things these friends might feel if you asked them for help.
If this whole asking friends for help thing still feels too much, I’m working on a followup post (There Are People Who Want to Help – Really!) that you might find helpful. Leave me a comment, or just subscribe to this blog and I’ll make sure you know when it’s posted.