As busy women who are juggling work, managing a household, a partner, children and the umpteen other things we try to keep on top of, it is often hard to accept that things might be easier if we just asked for help. Asking for help feels like admitting failure for many of us. We feel that we should be wonder-woman or super-mum, who has got everything sorted and everything organised and is kicking goals all over the place.
But there are times when asking for and accepting help can make all the difference in terms of our well-being, self-care and our relationships.
As I write this I am recovering from being unwell. It took being bedridden for me to realise that asking for and accepting help is okay. I simply couldn't do everything as I was too unwell.
I have been surprised that when I ask directly for help it is always forthcoming. Rather than my usual practice of hoping that 'people' (i.e. husband + kids) recognise that I am drowning and require some assistance, and then getting upset when no help is offered or provided.
It turns out that hoping does not bring help.
Direct asking is much more productive!
My life-long habit in personal relationships has been to hope and occasionally, vaguely hint. Hope that somehow the important people in my life would all just KNOW I needed something. They would sense my need and miraculously come to my aid.
This view actually has led to most of my frustrations, and nearly all the arguments in my close relationships as it tends to result in both parties feeling resentment. Help is not provided, things don’t get done and I end up feeling resentful and hurt about it. My mind is running, “Can’t they see I needed help? Why do I have to do this again? Surely someone else could have managed this?” This is clearly not productive and the only person who ends up worse off is me. I end up martyr-like and bitter. Sheesh, I don’t even like writing that let alone being it!
Over the past few weeks I have been practicing asking directly. Apparently this was one of my husband’s major issues with our communication – I was never direct in my requests and so he didn’t know what I wanted or how to help! Duh! (mental head slap).
Once we finally had the conversation about being direct and specifically asking for what I want and where I need help, everything became easier. I didn’t get everything I asked for (turns out even being very clear and specific doesn’t guarantee that!) but a whole lot of angst and frustration was removed from our communications. Result = happier relationship. I feel supported, and he feels relieved to no longer be expected to read my mind.
I completely understand why as women we don’t ask for help, or speak up directly about what we need. Asking for help can feel like we have failed. That we couldn't quite manage the demands on our time, we overcommitted, that somehow we weren't good enough. But in reality, asking for help is a sign of strength. It is recognising that we are human and fallible. Asking for help just shows that we are self-aware enough to seek assistance.
And it's not just for husbands. We can ask for help from friends, colleagues, teachers, our own parents, neighbours, kids or someone else. The list goes on!
Most people if asked directly will happily oblige. As humans we like to feel useful and needed. And if it’s a clear request or task, it’s easier to comply with and so the helper feels they can competently do what is being asked of them.
Asking for help can strengthen a friendship. Think about if a neighbour asks you to collect their mail, or feed their pet whilst they are away. You feel that they must really trust you to ask you to do that, which makes you feel good. As a result, you feel more inclined to like them a little more too. And presto, the friendship is a little stronger!
For me this asking for help thing is a work in progress. I admit I still sometimes revert to hoping, as a lifetime’s habit needs practice to change. BUT I am enjoying the new feeling of support that comes with actually receiving assistance when it’s asked for, so am determined to continue practicing asking for help when needed.
Does this ring true for you? If you also have times when you need assistance but feel awkward or uncomfortable asking for help, perhaps this week you could give it a go! Start small. Instead of hinting and hoping, try it out – ask directly and see what happens.
Another way you can ask for help, is to book a complimentary (free) session so together we can determine whether I can help you achieve a happier and more fulfilled life.