Why do we hesitate to ask for help

“Let us ask someone for help”, exclaimed my niece as we stood perplexed in middle of the road in scorching heat. It has been already an hour of struggle for us to find our way towards our destination. I had been rehearsing all the information in my head while also trying to figure out the GPS routes but could not ask for help.

The incident somehow showed me the difference in an adult and child’s perception about asking for help (by the way we asked someone and were guided to our destination in 10 mins). Just try to visualize the image of a child who might have fallen or is stuck in some problem. You will find the kid struggling and perplexed but holding on and looking for some cues. The moment his eyes meet some adult eyes who he can relate to he will cry, shout, or give some sign that he has chosen you for helping him.

Now try to visualize some adult in some vulnerable situation; stuck and tired. What we do is either ignore our vulnerability by sounding “I can handle it”; or we hide in our shame and choose to give up rather ask. Something very strong comes in our way of connecting to the helping hands that can guide us from our problems.

Contrary to same if we are in the role of a helper, we are always keen to guide and help. We love the badge of “someone who can solve everything” or the “Go to person for everyone”. However, while contemplating to ask for help we feel defeated, weak, and ashamed. If we can be honest to ourselves each one of us recall some incident of such vulnerability in our lives when we desperately wanted some helping hand but could not ask for same. Irony is each one of us has lot of such helping hands and compassionate hearts. Just as we are ready to be someone’s guiding light there are others who want to be same for us.

Point is when as a child we could be so natural in asking for help, why does that comfort erode over the time. What is it forces us to hide in the times of need. The social demand which asks for a “perfect and ready to fit in” personality plays a major role in this change. Where perfection is perceived to be the only winner, no one wants to showcase their weakness and be an “odd one out”.

In our minds ASK is perceived as 

A – Admit Defeat: The very first feeling that hits us is that if we ask for help, it means we admit we are defeated. This hits our ego or pride and becomes our restraint in taking a step ahead.

S – Shame: The feeling of shame overpowers us with the thought of sharing our vulnerability with someone. We see that the act of sharing out struggle will taint our picture-perfect image. We do not want to give people a spot to highlight and hit on us.

K – “Know it all Illusion”: We all live in the illusion of being great knowers. We know everything, we can handle everything on our own. When life throws its punch, our illusion is shaken. But we are left perplexed to choose a reaction.

If we can just change this perception a little bit, may be asking for help will be easier for us

A – Acknowledge: Rather than seeing the moment as that of defeat, take the opportunity to acknowledge that you still have things left to learn. This moment is a moment of adding something new to your learning.

S – Surrender: Surrender to the fact that we all have limitations. Also trust the people in your life. The people who are ready to help you and are capable to guide you through.

K – Kill: Kill that part of your ego which makes you see yourself as the perfect one. Don’t play to the tunes of fitting in and trying to impress those who have their own struggles with vulnerabilities.

Humans are social beings that thrive on interactions, sharing and caring. This interaction can be healthy and positive only when we are ready to trust and confide in people around us. Asking for help gives a feeling of “responsibility and being valued” to the other person and keeps us humble and strong. Let us overpower our ego and hesitation in the moments of vulnerability and ask for help when we need it. Let others also enjoy the joy of giving.

To end the note with a line from Brene Brown’s book, The Gifts of Imperfection.

“Until we can receive with an open heart, we are never really giving with an open heart.”


Learner for life, from life

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