Is it just me, or do you ever find it hard to ask for help?
Some time ago, I found myself struggling with whether to ask an acquaintance for a favor. (Let’s call them Robin.) It wasn’t life-and-death or anything like that, but it was something that would make a big difference in my life.
And I knew that, because of their connections, it would be really easy for Robin to do the favor–like 10 minutes, easy-peasy, done and done. Seriously, it would be a piece of cake, if they were willing.
So why was I so nervous about asking?
Well, I knew I was afraid they’d say no. But what consequences would that bring, exactly? As I sat with the possibilities, two separate fears emerged:
First, the fear of not getting the thing I was hoping for. If I asked and Robin said no, it would definitively cut me off from getting that thing I was hoping for. Whereas, if I never asked, the possibility that they might say yes was still out there, not yet closed off.
I couldn’t argue with that logic! But I had to admit, if I never asked, I would almost certainly not get the thing either.
That’s when a deeper fear made itself known: The fear of being found annoying, a pest, a bother, an inappropriate and incompetent person. I thought, what if lots of people are bugging Robin for these kinds of favors all the time, and by asking, I’ve shifted myself in their mind into the category of people to avoid at all costs? Then I would still not have the thing, and I’d have the extra burden of feeling judged and found wanting. Ugh.
I kept sitting with my dilemma and finally realized, yikes, the whole idea of having to ask for help in the first place felt like a sign of weakness and incompetence. Like, if I really had my act together, I wouldn’t need help.
Oh! Apparently I was the one doing the judging and finding myself wanting. I was the one who thought I should never need help.
And yet, that kind of thinking makes no sense. Because we all need help, every single day, every moment.
We need help from the ground that holds us up, and from gravity which keeps us there.
We need help from the air we breathe.
We need help from the sun that gives us light and heat.
We need help from the water we drink, and the food we eat.
We need help from the clothes that keep us warm.
Our body-selves are made in such a way that we need an infinite variety of help, at every moment of our lives, from the very universe itself.
We all know this and take it for granted–often, even take it as our due! So why should we be so reluctant to ask for help from the fellow human beings in our lives? Why not simply accept the truth that “all our lives we are in need, and others are in need of us,” as the old saying goes?
Maybe there’s the deepest remedy for the fear of asking for help: remembering that others are in need of us too. It’s just how we humans are made.
So if you’re struggling with asking someone for help right now, try imagining how you would feel if your roles were reversed. What if that person came to you for help, asking something that meant a lot to them, which you could give easily?
That’s what I tried as I sat with my fear. And the answer appeared right away: If Robin needed something I could offer easily, it would be a joy to help them! My heart would feel so good knowing what I had to give would make such a big difference for them. Wouldn’t yours too?
Oh, but what about the whole “annoying” factor? Well, sure, I know people–probably you do too–who tend to ask too lightly for too many favors. That’s reality. But I suspect that if you’ve read this far and you’re still second-guessing yourself, you’re among the much larger crowd of people who tend not to ask unless it’s really important.
As for me, I finally worked up my nerve to ask Robin for that favor. I was still afraid to hit “send” on that email, but I did it. The next day, their reply popped up in my in-box: “Yes! I’d be happy to help!”
And I believe they really were.