Why is it so hard to ask for help?

I sat with my phone in hand, staring at the text message app with tears streaming down my face. My son was due in a couple of weeks, and all I needed to do was ask a friend to accompany me to a doctor’s appointment. I was scared to go alone, and I couldn’t type the words without bawling my eyes out.

Why on earth was it so hard to ask for help?

At the end of my pregnancy, things started getting complicated as he was still breech and the due date was creeping closer. My midwife was sending me to see an OB. My husband was out of town for work, and all my family members had work schedules they couldn’t adjust. I had to weigh out which fear was harder to swallow, going to this doctor’s appointment alone or asking for help.

In the end, I had three appointments where I had to ask for different friends to join me. Each time I cried through sending the request.

Since then, I’ve become acutely aware of how hard it is for me to ask for help.

It manifests in many ways. Piling all the tasks for work projects onto my list and having the hardest time asking other people to manage some of the weight.

Hearing the request of “let me know if you need anything,” and never letting anyone know when I need something.

Taking on more than I can handle, and then letting things slip through the cracks.

And so much more.

Two years ago, sitting with my phone in my hand while the tears fell, was a cross point of three fears. The fear of lack of control, the fear of rejection, and the fear of vulnerability.

I remember being most scared that they may say no. It’s as if I was attaching my self-worth to whether they saw my request as a priority in their lives. All three times I had to ask for a companion I started it with “do you have plans on ____.” That way if they were busy I could move on to the next option without having to hear no.

It became obvious to me that I like to be seen as strong and independent. I desperately wanted everything to be okay and for me to be able to rock these appointments solo like it was all no big deal. In asking, I had to admit to them that I was very scared. I had to admit I wasn’t okay. I had to admit I needed a support system to get through this experience.

The other fear was rooted in a lack of control. I had researched all the birth plan options. All the best providers and locations. All the Plan B’s. All of the “if this, then this” scenarios. But I didn’t map this one out. Having a breech baby and changing literally every detail of the birth plan the last couple weeks of the pregnancy wasn’t in the playbook. I felt vulnerable. I felt unprepared. I felt highly uncomfortable. Needing help just added to the vulnerable state I was in.

Since this experience, I have tried practicing asking for help more often. It’s still really hard for me, but at least now I don’t cry through the asks. Here are a few of the things I have learned:

  • Don’t be the friend that says “If you need anything let me know.” Most people don’t even know what they need and if they do, it’s so far out of their comfort zone to communicate it. It will be so hard for them to ask you to help with something, that they will probably stay silent. Just show up. Just do something.
  • The more you practice asking for help, the easier it becomes to recognize the old habits that aren’t serving you. Now when the overwhelm starts to hit, I have a much stronger radar for “I probably need to invite someone into this process to help me carry this load.”
  • Asking for help is a sign of strength. I believe one of the reasons it’s so challenging is it makes us feel weak to ask for help. In reality, it takes great courage.
  • Most people really like to help, they just don’t know how. Letting them know how you could use some help will empower them to feel wanted and needed. Being direct about our needs can actually be helpful to our friends and family.

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