Fear & Other Tough Stuff: ask for help

A number of my clients have recently struggled with asking for help.

The unnecessary hero

One is changing careers and has trouble leveraging her current network to facilitate the transition.

The issue is not whether she has a strong network or whether they would be willing to offer assistance. No, the issue is her near-refusal to even consider asking anyone for help.

She says the career transition seems like something she should be able to do on her own. Interestingly, she’s OK with paying a coach for assistance, but balks at the thought of asking for “a handout”.

It takes this kind of hero longer to get where she wants to go.

The needy hero

A variation on this theme is the client struggling to ask for help with launching her new business because it makes her feel needy.

She admits to keeping score when it comes to favors and requests for assistance. As a result, she can only ask for help from someone when and if a favor is “owed” to her.

This account balance mentality frequently stalls her forward progress because she invariably needs help at times when a potential resource doesn’t qualify according to her quid pro quo stance.

This kind of hero experiences a frustrating start and stop to her business development.

Her approach has also created a reluctance in others to ask her for help because they sense her something-for-something view of the world.

The competent-at-all-costs hero

Another is completely overwhelmed with her workload at the office, but refuses to ask for help from her colleagues or her boss.

She’s afraid to admit she can’t do it all and equates needing help with being perceived as incompetent. This is despite the fact that she’s routinely acknowledged for doing the job of three people.

She stays late into the evening several days a week and goes into the office nearly every weekend. She’s drowning, but pretends she’s got it all under control and even hides the extra hours she’s forced to put in to keep her head above water.

It takes burnout or breakdown for this kind of hero to ask for help.

The unquestioning hero

Another client is in her first year of an entrepreneurial endeavor. While her start-up is having significant success, she finds stumbling blocks on a weekly basis from bumping up against something she doesn’t know how to do, but is reluctant to ask advice from those who have more experience.

She feels asking too many questions and admitting she doesn’t know how to do something undermines her credibility.

Once again, it takes this kind of hero longer to get where she wants to go as her refusal to ask for help extends her learning curve.

She spends a lot of time recreating the wheel and making the same mistakes of others who’ve gone before her.

Misguided heroes

All these examples have the misguided “hero” in common.

Somewhere at the root of their belief systems is the notion it’s somehow better to go it alone. They equate asking for help with weakness, being perceived as incompetent, and putting themselves in jeopardy. Asking for help is entangled with feelings of discomfort and embarrassment.

I ask for help all the time

In fact, every time I go outside my comfort zone to stretch and grow, I invariably ask for some help along the way.

  • Maybe it’s asking someone whose gone down the road before me to share their experience.
  • Maybe it’s asking for how-to advice.
  • Maybe it’s asking someone to play devil’s advocate and offer me a different perspective.
  • Maybe it’s asking for encouragement and support.

My requests for help take all different shapes and forms, but they have one thing in common—I don’t ever feel “less than” for having asked.

We need each other

We are put on this earth together. We live in community with each other.

Asking for help is symbiotic—we need each other to survive and prosper. There is an enduring ebb and flow as to whether we’re asking for help or on the receiving end of help. Both sides of the spectrum are natural and necessary.

Are you averse to asking for help? What could you use a little help with right now? Do the truly heroic thing and go ask someone for a helping hand.