Ask for help? I’d rather not.

I was speaking with a friend, a professional woman married to another professional with two kids, who lives far away from her family. The summer schedule, or rather the massively disrupted schedule, that looks more like a hodge-podge of running hither and fro, is in full force and they needed help. As she was explaining this to me, she was also explaining all the ways she had tried to solve the problem herself before finally submitting to asking a local friend for some carpool support.

I was pretty bummed about how awful it seemed to make her feel, and how hard it was for her to ask for the help she legitimately needed, but not surprised. Something I’ve observed with both clients and friends is the range of emotions they are experiencing when they find themselves in the position of needing to ask for help. The powerful sense of guilt and inadequacy that floods in is astonishing, and this actually paralyzed my friend from taking action. Of course, putting off asking for the help she needed only escalated her experience of guilt and ramped up her overall anxiety about the situation. A total negative emotion pile-on.

The irony? This friend is the FIRST one to jump in and help someone else. With pleasure and her whole heart, she wants to be asked, and wants to help out when others–a neighbor, a family member, a friend–are in a bind. Sound familiar?

It certainly does to me. In addition to my friend, the struggle with asking for help has showed up for several clients as well just recently. Whether it’s the highly organized pet owner apologetically asking for needed help with a dog when the dog walker can’t come, a co-worker on a special diet needing to eat lunch at a certain restaurant, or a mother canceling her special birthday plans so as to not put any one else out. I’ve noticed that somehow these experiences of asking for what is needed are fraught with emotion and anxiety, even though these women are always willing to help and accommodate someone else at a moment’s notice. Like it’s no big deal. But getting that help, support and understanding to flow back their way? A very big deal.

If this is ringing true for you, what are your go-to tips for trying to cut through the anxiety and get the help you need? No guilt when needing help? Please share that also!

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