Why Is Asking For Help So Difficult?


I’ve just spent two weeks sick, oh my god, since I’ve been a ‘grown up’, I can hardly think of any times that I’ve had to rest and recuperate for so long.  Now once I got my head around it, I’ve really appreciated the experience, but initially it was blinking hard, because I had to ask for help so much.  There were calls to neighbours, in-laws, friends, husbands having to work from home, and people paid to help out.  I had to pathetically ask people to get me a drink, food, pills, or comfort my baby, just so that all of my energy was focussed on recovering, and I found it at times very distressing.

I had plenty of time to think about it too, and one day I spent a long time looking back and back, wondering why I hated it so much.  Yesterday I read an interesting blog by AlphaMummy about the same sort of thing, and their discovery of a fab charity called Homestart who can help out when things get too difficult.  It was suggested that it was a middle class thing to ‘just get on with it‘, and I must admit there was an element of that.  After-all, someone who was upper-class or very rich, could just throw money at it and employ ‘staff’, and someone very poor can ask for benefits from the government (I know there is an element of generalisation here).  Before I fell sick I emailed my local NCT yahoo group for ideas of how to cope or get help with the evening routine, now that I have 2 kids (no family of my own, no local in-laws, and husband working long hours).  I got one lovely reply also mentioning Homestart, which was quickly followed by another reply from a Mum saying that Homestart was only for people with ‘real problems’, i.e. not available for ‘nice middle class’ families!

The question was, why did I find it so difficult to ask for help?  What was at the root of it all, and what was the basic fear that was being triggered?

With some people it is the wish to be independent, or hate to show vulnerabilities or weaknesses, which I suspect many people would think was my reasoning, but it wasn’t.  There might be a social aspect, where we don’t like to be considered a hypochondriac, or to be a burden on other people.

My parents had the same tendency.  I remember nursing them throughout my summer holidays after my O Levels.  Mum had broken her pelvis, and Dad was recovering from a heart attack.  They could easily have paid for some help, or gone into hospital to recuperate.  But instead they stayed at home and kept it quiet how ill they were.  The downside was a very pissed off teenage daughter by the end of the holidays, who started smoking from the stress of it all; potentially not what they planned for!

The saddest story I’ve heard recently was of a young boy of 11yrs old, who waited in a corridor for a teacher, whilst having an asthma attack that he later died of.  If this is the kind of potential ramifications of my not asking for help and passing on the same tendency to my children, then I definitely needed to get my head around the issue.

When I broke down my fear, I realised that the reason that I was so uncomfortable was because I could never be sure of people’s reactions.  They could jump to my assistance with enthusiasm and willingness.  Alternatively, there were bound to be times when they were plainly irritated, tired or could refuse or ignore my requests.  The earliest memory I could find of not asking for help was as a 2yr old, in my attic bedroom, in the midst of a storm and absolutely terrified.  Looking back it seems daft that I didn’t absolutely scream for help, but I didn’t.  To be honest, it also seems weird that my parents hadn’t worked out how scared I would be.  Instead I imagined an angel watching over me, and hid under my blankets until morning.  It suggests that I was used to not getting an ‘ideal’ response when asking for things, or any response at all, and I had just basically given up.

So, I sat in bed an had a little chat to myself.  I looked at the worst possible thing that could happen.  People could think badly of me, they could think that I was weak, they could think that I was making it up, and they could refuse to help.  But, I remembered that only 50% of the world will think like this, so there will also be people who think differently.  They will enjoy being asked to help, or being paid to help, or knowing that I’m not perfect so they don’t have to try and live up to something impossible.  Rather than focus on the reactions that I didn’t enjoy, I thought about the ones that had been supportive, helpful and comforting, because there were going to be as many of them as the negative ones.  Some of the benefits of my being ill this time, were an much closer bond between my in-laws and my kids, which is really lovely to see.  Plus I have a better understanding of my husband’s values and what his priorities are for a ‘happy home’, which is important as both of us have changed with the arrival of the 2nd child, and maybe it’s time for some adjustments in the way we live.

So I’m not going to run out into the world and ask for help all the time, because that extreme would be just as unhealthy.  I’m going to try and ask for help half the time, and show my kids that it’s OK to sometimes need help and OK to sometimes be independent.  Plus when my daughter screams in the car seat that she hates so much when taking my son too and from school, I will remind myself that it’s better that she lets me know (however horrid and uncomfortable for me that she is crying), than that she ‘just puts up with it’; hmmm, I might need to do a little more work on that one for it to not leave me feeling gutted each time, but it does feel a little better.

Do you find it difficult to ask for help?  What is it you don’t like about it and WHY do you reckon that is?

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13 thoughts on “Why Is Asking For Help So Difficult?

  1. Shelley Milner

    Hi Lisa, you wont believe how this is perfect for me at the moment, I know its strong but I hate asking for help, I feel like I should ;o) know all the answers and being a burden makes me feel sick.
    What you said and about Willow shouting and the fact that at least she’s saying something, about what she doesn’t like is so true, I really can feel my self squashing my lovely son abilitiy to say “No thats not what I meant” or “No i don’t like that”.
    I feel angry that my mum can’t see that I need help and angry as I feel it to much to ask of people to have him. Whats tying me up is my logic brain is trying to help but I just can’t hear it, theres to much shouting.
    I’m pleased to say that after reading a little of your first blog, I phone my in-laws straight up and went round for a cuddle and some back up, which Geoge loved, being that he’s a social butterfly, and this morning I asked for help in have G over the weekend so we can get some sleep, so his staying with his antie on friday and his nanny and saturday.
    Thanks for this blog I’m going to keep reading to see what my problem is, that stops me from wanting to ask for help, lots of love darling see you soon xxxx

    • Hiya Shelley,
      @Shelley, Ooh, so is it generally everyone you don’t like asking for help from, or mainly your parents? I can see why you learnt not to ask for help as a kid, because if I remember rightly you’ve always taken the more parental role over your younger parents.
      Can you remember the first time that you made the decision that they were less responsible/mature/capable than you? Also, have you thought about how it has affected your life?
      The bit I forgot to put in, is that I realised when looking at this, that it had given me my main message for my work with clients; that I’m always working to get them empowered, rather than remaining victimised or reliant. This is why I picked Reiki, cos I could teach people to do it themselves, and kinesiology cos I could calm their pain, and the demartini method cos it felt like the most empowering tool that would remove all feelings of being a victim, plus they could learn to apply the concepts as well. So without it, I wouldn’t have had this clarity of direction, I might have been like most people in the ‘personal development’ industry and learnt tonnes of different therapies, thus getting confused, unclear and fragmented. You and I both like simplicity, and my message is very simple at it’s core, because of this strong direction that I was given.
      If you look at your life, I would suspect that the unusual maturity that you have gained at such a relatively young age, is also a huge part of your success, are you really willing to give that up? Would you give up your friendship with me, because it is that maturity that put us on a par and enabled us to get over the student/teacher barrier? What else would you have to give up? Would you be willing to be more ‘normal’, less ‘unique’?
      Over the next few days, try listing all the things you have, but wouldn’t have without the ripples of the effect of your parents being as they were. Then start listing the benefits to your loved ones of asking for help.
      Let me know if you fancy coming over for a cuppa & brainstorm xxx

      • Shelley Milner

        Hi babes, I’ve just read your post and it really hit home I’m gonna read it again soon, (tonight) and would love to come over and brain strom, I’ve being asking my I/L’s for lots of help and they have been great, G and I are very loved, would love to write more about what I’ve learnt resently, but my client is nearly here for a hair do. Thanks lovely speak or message soon love to you and yours xxxx

  2. so why is it that you didn’t like asking for help? I mean there’s the experience as a kid and all, but what was it today, if it’s not too personal?xxx

  3. my first memory of you shelley was that evening at prophecy when i felt so overwhelmed and upset about what i was hearing that in a moment of panic got up to leave the room and somehow had the amazing ‘luck’ to walk straight into you and without having time to think, asked you for help. I hate being vulnerable and i don’t want people to help or save me or anything like that, if anything i push many people who try away for a whole range of reasons, but in my distress it just came out when i saw you and i’m still terribly glad for that experience when a (plus minus) stranger gave me a hug, bought me tea and was generous with her time to be there for me. I was paranoid most of that week and asking you for help gave me a moment of calm and safety. Part of me thinks that at the time it gave you confidence in regards to facilitating and made you feel like you made a difference in peoples lives that way and were able to help them, amongst other experiences of course. I might be wrong on that, but feeling that in that moment also made me realise asking for help and offering help is very much a two way game as to what both parties get out of it, and i reckon the more ‘desperate’ or introvert the one asking for help is, the more special the person who gets to offer help feels or is. I definitely thought you were special for me to be able to open up to you that evening. Thank you.

    • @Hildi – yep that’s a really good point, that sometimes we still think that ‘it is better to give than receive’, but that means that other people never get a chance and actually makes a person seriously irritating and martyred ;o)

  4. thanks for the add on lisa.

  5. Shelley Milner

    Hildi – thank you I’ve only just read this and it brought tears to my eyes, I’m going to spend some time asking myself all these questions, it is so special to be asked and I can hear a difference in my mother in laws voice when I phone her to help me, she said it make her feel use full and young. And your right it did make me feel as though I could help make a difference to people. Thanks lovely xxxx

  6. i think asking for help has a lot to do with values as well. i’m abroad for work which to me kinda means i can’t get sick, so waking up with a migraine this morning was rather annoying. i don’t know my way around this country anymore so after spending some time trying to find someone for a massage i gave up and asked mom. she’s really busy at the moment so i felt a bit bad, but she said she’d sort it out and that i should call back in a bit. the minute she told me she found someone i just started crying and my migraine disappeared. and so i looked back at when i lived here and used to get migraines very often and that when i asked my girlfriend for help it didn’t really work out. and then i realised that the things i asked her to help me with were things she didn’t enjoy and it was like a chore for her to help me, and so i just felt utterly helpless and angry with her. and i realised that i didn’t ask of her the kind of help she would enjoy giving and that was her, and i knew today with mom, despite her currently busy schedule she’d like the detective work of finding someone, and she doesn’t mind calling people and she misses her kids sometimes and she likes to feel needed and mommy-like for us every now and again and i seldom let her, so it worked out for both of us today…and i know that sometimes i’m scared to ask for help because i might not get it or i feel like i’m asking too much and now i realise with anything it’s a values thing here too, where you would ask different things of different people and i can’t expect my partner to help me with everything either, that she too would have a preference in the kind of help she could give. and i remember when my dad was alive, and we took care of him at home, i told my mom that i would drive him anywhere, cook and take care of admin type manly things etc, but that i couldn’t take care of him physically as in clean and feed and those kind of things, and i know that if that was asked of me that they would have been terribly disappointed and felt that i wouldn’t help…but it would have solely come down to the type of help expected. i think people like being asked to do things their good at and when they can contribute in their own style…i dunno…but i’m off to get a massage now, thanks to moms help…

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