Friday, October 11, 2013

Why People Don't Ask For Help Even When They Desperately Need It

Afraid to Ask For Help

Are you one of those people who never ask for help? Are you determined to do what needs to be done on your own? Without help from anyone else? No matter what?

So what's at the heart of refusing to ask for help when you need it?

Some people don't want to be beholding to anyone. So instead of asking for help, they either do it themselves. Or they hire someone to do the job.

Other people don't want to bother their family and friends. Maybe they've asked for help so many times they don't want to ask yet again. Though I suspect this group is not highly represented in the statistics.

I'll confess that asking for help was a fear of mine. There are a number of reasons I could site. But when I went deeper, I found the answer was in my childhood and youth. No surprises there.

But it wasn't always that way. I had asked for help many times in childhood and in my youth. It was the responses that had fueled the fear.

One of the first memorable times was with Social Services. I was 12 years old. Home life was a nightmare. I turned to the agency I thought was supposed to help kids like me. I was told there weren't any foster homes willing to take a kid my age. So just go home.

Another time I turned to a priest in my Catholic parish. I naively believed the priest was a conduit to God. I told him how terrible it was at home. I was praying for relief. He promptly told me to go home and honour my parents. AND he gave me penance as punishment, as though I'd confided in him in the confessional.

Yet another time I made an appointment to talk with my high school counselor. She appeared to listen. Then she admonished me for skipping classes. She told me, "The best revenge is getting a really good education."

Not one to quit so easily, I sought help from yet another counselor. She made excuses for my mother's malicious behaviour. "Adults have bad days. Sometimes they say and do things they don't mean. Your mother loves you."

Oh how little she knew.

But the ultimate came when I was 18 years old.

I was attending senior high school as an adult student, having gone back after quitting two years before. I was working full time late at night at a cafe that was riddled with drug users and falling down drunks. I'd completed several semesters on that grueling schedule. I was too tired to keep up that pace.

I turned to my parents. Asked to moved back in with them. I would follow all their rules. Work 20 hours a week. Pay them room and board. Attend all my classes. Just until I finished high school.

My dad hemmed and hawed. My mother didn't hesitate for a second. "I...WE don't want another Dar-lene in this house. The answer is no."

The fear of rejection had been building for a number of years. Each time I had reached out for help I was told that my feelings didn't really matter. Or that I had to accept the hell I lived in. Or worse, that I wasn't worthy.

But without question, it was the response from my parents when I was in such dire need, when I was so vulnerable that taught me never again to ask for help.

And I'm not alone.

The fear of rejection is very powerful. It's tied into the fear of not being enough. Plus a few others. All can stop you dead in your tracks.

The silver lining is that the fear teaches you to do things on your own. Which can be empowering. But at great cost. It's exhausting. Time-consuming. Isolating. And impossible to do everything on your own.We all need help at some point.

So I changed my beliefs. I changed what I thought. I told myself that people ARE helpful. That it's safe to ask.

I'm now more inclined to ask for the help I need. Not always, But I'm getting better at it. I'm not afraid to be vulnerable. And my reality is that I'm surrounded by all kinds of people who are there for me. In ways I would never have expected.

What prevents YOU from asking for help when you really need it?

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  1. I relate to this aritcle in so many ways. It was like you were talkng about me. You touched a nerve with me Darlene Barriere. A good nerve. Thank you!!!

    1. Thank YOU for sharing, Anonymous. May the nerve that was touched bring you wisdom.

  2. Excellent post. I can't answer your question, but I'm starting to think about why I don't ask for help. TY for making me think about this.

    1. As you consider the "why", if you get any answers, I hope you come back and post here. It's always a wonderful learning experience for others when we share our insights.

  3. I never have problems asking for help. However, my problem is asking for help so that I can avoid doing the job myself. I have done this on occasion in the past and it is like the little boy crying wolf when there really is no wolf. Fortunately I have grown out of this nasty habit.

    1. Interesting perspective, Anonymous. Glad to hear you grew out of the habit :)

  4. Wow, DB you certainly have opened a can of worms. I suspect there are many people who do not ask for help and have never given a thought as to why not ask for help.


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