Getting Past "I Don't Need Help" -- Because You Do

For some of us, asking for help is tough. We avoid it, put it off, or just plain make a policy that we'll never do it.

There are lots of problems with these approaches. Mostly they make us into tiny human islands. Islands can be lovely, but tiny ones often get smaller as they're eroded by constant waves or deluged by big storms.

So we humans need other humans to help us with little things, big things, and lots of things in between. If we refuse to ask for help or decline help every time it’s offered, we’re more likely to become worn down as our small needs go unmet and feel wiped out when big needs come around.

If you're among the I-never-ask-for-help contingent (or a lesser version of it), consider these seven thoughts.

1. You know you're not an island and that you ought to ask for help more often, but you feel weak and maybe even humiliated when you do ask. It helps to remind yourself that asking for help when you need it shows strength, not weakness. This word flip isn’t just some fluffy reframe. It’s an important life strategy.

2. When you need help and don't ask for it, you're more likely to burn out. No one can do everything. Burnout is a dangerous condition that leaves you depleted and unable to enjoy your life for a very long time. It’s harder to come back from burnout than you might think. Don’t risk it. Ask for help.

3. When you ask for help and get it, you experience feelings of relief that boost your energy and your mood. You also feel more connected to the person who’s helping you, and connection is a very good thing for your emotional and physical health.

4. When you ask for help, the person who helps you gets a shot of good feelings too. You're helping not only yourself feel better but also another person. In turn, you get a second wave of good feelings when you witness another person's mood lifted because of your willingness to be vulnerable.

5. If it’s professional help you’re avoiding or putting off, reflect on whether you've tried for a while to gain ground on a problem that's causing quite a bit of trouble in your life. If it's been months or years and you're not making headway, it's probably time to consult a professional.

6. When you refuse help from others because accepting makes you feel one down but you feel fine about being the helper, you're judging helpers as one down and elevating yourself to one up. This judgment doesn’t serve anyone well, least of all yourself.

7. Some people avoid asking for help because they don’t want to owe anyone anything. They see accepting help as incurring an IOU. If this is you, try looking at your life and the lives around you as a potential tapestry whose beautiful pattern requires every thread to come forward sometimes and recede at other times. If one thread dominates, the pattern becomes distorted. When all threads work in harmony, weaving in and out as needed, an exquisite pattern emerges.

Sue Bergin, MA, has 10 years of experience as a personal coach and hospice chaplain. She coaches adults around issues such as faith transitions, making difficult decisions, perfectionism, caregiver burnout and self-care, relationship clarity, physical illness (serious & chronic), end-of-life decisions and adaptation to unmarried life.

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