Do you feel like you have the weight of the world on your shoulders? I can totally relate. If the struggles of living in an overly busy, stressed society weren’t enough, the fear of controlling everything in the middle of COVID is the proverbial icing on the cake.
Whether it’s the overwhelming task of completing everyday tasks or deciding to get a grip on your mental or physical health, it can be difficult to manage on your own. Which leads me to the question: Why do we feel compelled to do everything ourselves?
Do you have a do-it-all-myself-mentality?
I ask this question to my health coaching clients whenever I feel they are falling back into their old patterns so as not to ask for help. We live by this notion that we should all be able to deal with anything that comes in our way. And if we can’t deal with it ourselves, then so be it a sure sign (at least in our own mind) that we are weak, incompetent, or somehow unworthy of success in this area. New health diagnosis? Sure no problem. Relationship problems? Have everything under control. Global pandemic as we have never seen it in our lives? No fucking sweat.
The problem is, asking for help can create similar uncomfortable feelings. Research in neuroscience and psychology confirms that there are indeed social threats involved. In fact, researchers found that one An emotionally painful threat activates the same parts of the brain as physical pain – which of course gives us even more reason not to ask and to continue fighting in silence.
Reasons Why You Should Avoid Asking for Help
You can avoid asking for help for several reasons:
- Not sure where to turn
- You don’t want to be seen as weak
- Fear of being rejected
- Show vulnerability
- I’m not sure how to ask
- Feeling like a burden
- Caring people won’t like you
- Give up control
- Admit that you can’t do everything
- Feeling that your problems are less significant
- You grew up with the pattern of being abandoned in childhood
There’s no shortage of reasons why asking for help is difficult, but this is where things get wild. Studies show that people like to help other people – they benefit enormously from it. Nothing we do as humans is as fulfilling as lending a hand to someone else.
To test this theory, the researchers had participants either write a supportive note to a friend or write about their commute to school or work before undertaking a laboratory-based stressful task. Physiological responses such as heart rate, blood pressure, alpha-amylase in saliva and cortisol in saliva as well as self-reported stress were collected and measured throughout the experiment. They found that participants who wrote the supportive notes had less sympathetic reactions than their colleagues who had just written about their routine.
When you ask for help, people like you more too. This concept is known as the Benjamin Franklin Effect and is based on cognitive dissonance theory, which refers to “a situation with conflicting attitudes, beliefs, or behaviors”. Which in real language means that when a person does a favor for someone they don’t like (or who feels neutral), there is an incongruous feeling between their actions and their attitudes. Essentially, to avoid cognitive dissonance, your mind is making you believe that you need to really appreciate this person in order to do something nice for them. When you ask someone for help, it builds sympathy and trust, and begins to create a bond between you and the other person.
In addition, when you ask for help you get stronger. One of the best things you can do for yourself is to ask for help without apology when you need it. While this feels outside of your comfort zone right now, I can tell you from personal experience that growth occurs when you start to feel comfortable with a little discomfort. Every time you force yourself to do something outside of your norm, you become a stronger person for it.
How to get better by asking for help
In all fairness, most people underestimate how willing people are to help them. It could come from a limiting belief they have from their past. Or maybe it’s the negative self-talk that creeps in every now and then. Or maybe you’ve had some less than great people in your life who literally weren’t able or willing to help you. Even if these scenarios apply to you, it doesn’t mean you can’t ask for the help you need better. Note that this is not suitable for emergencies. If you need help immediately, please contact a crisis hotline.
Here is a brief overview of different ways you can make it easier to ask for help. Stay tuned, I’ll unwrap these strategies below.
- Make small inquiries
- Ask people you trust
- Make sure you understand what you are asking
- Focus on the bottom line
- Remove any judgment
1. Make small inquiries.
Big requests can feel daunting, especially at the beginning. So start by making smaller ones. Ask your significant other to cook a pan of eggs and bacon in the morning. Or get your kids to go with you so you stay on track. Seeing you asking – and getting help – gets the ball rolling and increases your confidence in the area.
2. Ask people you trust.
The risk of being rejected or fired drops dramatically when you seek help from people with whom you have a solid relationship. Being vulnerable with your spouse or family members is a lot less scary than it is with your boss or the new man at work.
3. Be clear about what you are asking.
Assuming people know what you need, the fastest way is NOT to get it. Sure, it would be great if people immediately offered to help the moment the thought crossed their mind, but that’s not how it works. Instead, be clear about what you’re struggling with and what exactly you might need help with (i.e., I’m following the Primal Blueprint, so please don’t bring donuts home). The more you practice asking for help directly, the easier it becomes.
4. Focus on the bottom line.
Imagine for a minute that you had all the help you needed. How would that benefit you? Would you be less stressed? Less grumpy? Less suitable to skip your workout? By focusing on the result, you divert attention from the uncomfortable feeling of asking and focus on the fantastic feeling of getting the help you need.
5. Remove any judgment.
Don’t assume you know what people think of you. It is so easy to assume that you are a burden or perceived weakness when asking for help, but you have no idea what is on your mind. Also, don’t compare your struggles with those of others. Everyone processes things differently and in different steps.
And remember, you can always hire a professional to help you – in virtually any area of your life. That’s what we’re here for!
Are you good at asking for help? Or is it something that you are struggling with? Share your experience in the comments below.
About the author
Erin Power is the coaching and curriculum director of the Primal Health Coach Institute. She also helps her clients reestablish loving and trusting relationships with their bodies – while restoring their metabolic health so they can lose fat and gain energy – through her own private health coaching practice, eat.simple.
If you are passionate about health and wellness and you want to help people like Erin for their clients every day, you should consider becoming a certified health coach yourself. In this special briefing event hosted by PHCI Co-Founder Mark Sisson, you will learn the three simple steps to building a successful health coaching business in a maximum of 6 months.
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