There are many reasons why it can feel difficult to ask for help. We might fear rejection, worry that we’re burdening others, or simply believe we can handle everything by ourselves.
But asking others for help when we need it is important for a number of reasons. It can boost our health, improve the connection we have with others, and remind us that we’re not alone. Plus, being the one offering help has many benefits too.
With this in mind, we’ll explore why some of us struggle to ask for help and how we can make it easier, as well as suggesting ideas for how to offer help to others.
Why do we find it difficult to ask for help?
There are various reasons why it can feel difficult to ask for help, and often, this will differ from person to person.
We’ll cover some of the most common reasons below.
Feeling as though you’re wasting other people’s time
Some people might avoid asking for help because they fear wasting other people’s time or feel as though they’re being a burden. They might also believe that people have better things to do with their time than help them.
Whether it’s a family member, friend, or colleague, this fear is often enough to stop them from reaching out.
Having low self-esteem
Having low self-esteem can often lead people to be hard on themselves and struggle to understand why anyone would want to help them.
This often stems from an internal belief that they aren’t good enough to receive help from others.
Believing that you shouldn’t have to ask for help
Some people assume that others will pick up on their need for help without being told directly.
This can sometimes lead to frustration and loneliness if the person struggling feels as though they’re not being heard.
Pride convincing you that seeking help is a sign of weakness
Pride can sometimes hold people back from seeking help because they believe that not being able to cope on their own is a sign of weakness.
While pride can affect anyone, research has shown that due to age-old ideas about gender, this can be particularly true for men who feel they need to appear ‘strong’.
Fear of being rejected
If you’ve been rejected in the past when asking for help, this can make it very difficult to reach out, due to fear that it’ll happen again.
Being an overgiver
Overgiving is defined as a form of self-validation that involves giving, in the hope that it’ll make you feel good and that people will appreciate you for it. Over-givers tend to find it extremely difficult to accept help, or may even feel guilty for doing so.
This is very different to giving that stems from generosity, rather than a hidden need.
Common signs of over-giving include feeling afraid that a partner will leave or be unhappy if you stop giving, and continuing to give in situations you feel empty in.
Being trapped in the victim mindset
Having a victim mindset or mentality leaves people feeling as though bad things keep happening to them and that the world’s against them.
Even though there might be things you can do to help improve your situation when things aren’t going right (such as asking for help), it can feel easier to resort to the victim mindset and convince yourself that everything’s out of your control.
Struggling to trust others
Trust issues can sometimes get in the way of people asking for help.
You might feel as though you can’t trust others to help you, that they won’t follow through, or may even share what you tell them with others.
To be co-dependent is to base your sense of self-worth around what others think.
People who are co-dependent often take care of others at the cost of never meeting their own needs. They may feel unable to ask partners or friends for help, due to their belief that those around them have their own problems that they need support for.
6 benefits of asking for help
Whether it means asking someone for help moving a heavy piece of furniture to avoid hurting yourself, or seeking support and guidance to overcome struggles affecting your mental health, being able to reach out and admit when you need help is important. And contrary to popular belief, it’s a sign of strength rather than weakness.
Below are some of the main benefits of asking for help.
1. Asking for help can boost happiness and improve connection with others
Most of us are familiar with and may even have experienced the truth of the well-known saying: “A problem shared is a problem halved”. And it’s true – sharing our problems and receiving help from others can make us feel happier. It reminds us that we’re cared for and aren’t alone.
Plus, by taking some of the weight off your shoulders, many people also find that seeking help offers them extra headspace to rediscover things they’re passionate about. This could be a hobby or interest that adds quality and meaning to your life.
2. Seeking help is important for health
Seeking help and receiving support from others can help to relieve some of these burdens, as well as give us more time and space to focus on looking after our health.
3. Asking for help encourages healthy relationships
Learning to become comfortable asking others for help can positively impact the relationships we have with one another because it allows us to feel heard and increases our chance of having our emotional needs met.
This healthy dynamic differs significantly from some of the unhealthy tendencies that we touched on earlier, such as being an over-giver. And beyond this, having healthy social relationships where both people feel comfortable giving and asking for help can also have a significant impact on our health.
For example, new research has drawn a link between levels of inflammation in the body associated with an increased risk of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes, and having healthy social relationships that are balanced between giving and receiving.
4. Asking for help can boost confidence and self-esteem
Asking for, and receiving support from others can help to build confidence and self-esteem. This is because it turns self-limiting beliefs – like not being good enough or worth people’s time – on their head. As you gradually become more comfortable reaching out for help, your self-esteem and confidence is likely to grow too.
And remember, even if your call for help isn’t successful, try not to let this set you back – but allow it to boost your resilience instead. While hearing someone say ‘no’ can feel awkward or uncomfortable, often all it means is the other person isn’t in a position to help you due to other commitments or timeframe – it’s not a reflection on you.
For more help on this topic and understanding why people sometimes have to say ‘no’, you might like to have a read of our article; The power of saying no – 8 ways to say no and why it’s important.
5. Asking for help can increase productivity
Asking others for help with a task you’re struggling with is a powerful way to boost productivity. This could be anything from asking for help with an issue on your computer to asking a colleague for help on a work task.
Whether it’s pride, ego, or fear of what others might think that you need to let go of, research shows that overcoming these obstacles and learning to ask for help can make great differences to your productivity and achievements.
How can I ask for help?
While most of us know that receiving help and support can make us feel good, often the hardest part is knowing how to reach out in the first place.
Below are a few ideas that might help to make it easier for you.
- Focus on communicating your needs clearly. When reaching out for help, it’s important to remember that while the details of your situation will be obvious to you, they may not always be clear to others.
Therefore, it can help to be specific and use clear communication when asking for help. For example, you might like to consider questions like: Who needs help? Is it just you who needs help or are there others involved? What exactly do you need help with? And so on. This can be useful in avoiding disappointment or miscommunication.
- Consider who you want to ask for help. When thinking about who to ask for help, a lot of it will depend on your situation. Take time to consider your needs and who might be best suited to help you.
For example, if you’re in need of relationship advice, you might like to open up to a trusted friend or family member, approach a colleague if you’re seeking work advice, or a health professional if you’re struggling with your mental health. Thinking about this beforehand can help to increase your chances of receiving the right help.
- Try to remain open-minded. When asking for help, it’s important to remember that not everyone thinks the same way as you – we all have different opinions, approaches, and advice to share.
As a result, it can be useful to go in with an open mind when seeking help and advice from others. While some things may initially not be what you wanted to hear, by remaining open, you might find it’s exactly what you needed.
- Where possible, ask for help in person. If you’re able to, asking for help in person can make a positive difference. Being able to read body language and facial expressions can offer clearer indications to people that you need their help – as opposed to an email or text.
In fact, research has found that asking for help in person is 34 times more likely to end in success. If this is something you struggle with, you might find it helpful to ask someone to meet up over text beforehand, explaining that you’d like to ask for their help with something.
- Never apologise for asking for help. There’s nothing to be ashamed of or apologise for asking for help. Remember, we all need help sometimes.
Experts advise against using phrases like “I hate to ask, but can you…” and “It’s just a small thing I need help with…” because these can cast a negative light on what you say.
- Remember to express your gratitude. Showing someone that you’re grateful for their time helping and listening to you can go a long way – not only in making them feel appreciated but improving your relationship too.
How can I offer help and why is it important?
As well as seeking help, at some point many of us will also find ourselves helping others too.
Offering help is a positive thing for all those involved. Aside from the obvious benefit of providing support, science has revealed that helping others can increase our confidence, fulfilment, and sense of purpose. It can also lower stress levels and even reduce our risk of heart attacks. In fact, many believe that the secret to happiness is helping others – and there’s plenty of research to back this up.
There are plenty of ways to offer help to others. For example, you could consider volunteering – perhaps by volunteering with animals, supporting the elderly, or working in a charity shop if you enjoy customer facing roles. There are so many places that need people to help them.
Alternatively, you might like to offer help to family members, friends, or neighbours that live nearby. This can be as simple as offering to do someone’s grocery shopping, cooking them a meal, or knocking on the door of a neighbour’s house to say hello.
Often, what may seem like the smallest offers or acts of kindness can mean the most and remind people that you’re there for them.
For more ideas on how to spread kindness, why not have a read of our article; 17 meaningful ways to help others and give back to your community?
We all need help sometimes, though asking for it can feel difficult. However, the benefits that come as a result are often well worth it. Whether it helps to improve your self-esteem, deepen your connection with others, or boost productivity, it’s always good to ask for help. And the good news is that the more you do it, the easier it’ll become.
Alternatively, if you or someone you know is struggling, below are some helpful resources.
- Mind – Mental health support
- Samaritans – Suicide prevention and support for people struggling to cope
- Alzheimer’s Society – Support for people living with dementia and their loved ones
- Citizens Advice – Help and advice for things like benefits, consumer issues, debt, family, health, housing, and work
- Turn2Us – Support for those struggling with financial hardship
- Women’s Aid – Domestic abuse support
- Royal Voluntary Service – Supporting people in need by providing practical help and emotional support when people are struggling to cope.