By Rhonda Collins, I Start Wondering Columnist
“Behind every successful man is a woman rolling her eyes.” This assertion by Jim Carrey in the film Bruce Almighty is one of my husband’s favorite movie lines. While that quote may be funnier, I would argue that a truer statement is “Behind every successful person is a chorus of ‘You can do it!’ by a parade of loved ones.” Those cheerleaders are the ones who help us through the tough times and celebrate our happy times. In order to find these people, you often may find yourself asking for help.
And yet, many of us are reluctant to stop for a moment and ask one of those supporters for some help when we need it. The top seven reasons why we DON’T ask for help:
- We don’t want to impose.
- We think it makes us seem weak or needy.
- We are not sure exactly what it is we need.
- We feel uncomfortable sharing something personal.
- We are afraid we might be turned down – and that could feel worse than going it alone.
- We worry that we will be obligated to someone if they help us.
- We are scared we will lose control of the situation (they may give us advice we don’t like or solve the problem differently than we would).
- We are waiting for someone to notice we need help.
While each of these excuses represents a legitimate negative emotion, many more positive reasons to secure help outweigh those reluctant feelings. The top seven reasons why we SHOULD ask for help:
- Asking for help is a sign of strength. It means you are willing to admit you are not Wonder Woman.
- Not asking for help in a timely fashion can make matters worse (especially money matters).
- Requesting support strengthens your relationships with others, and lets you see who really cares about you and your future.
- Something a friend says can send you in a whole different trajectory, inspire you or motivate you.
- By asking the universe (or a friend) for your specific needs, it can set in motion indiscernible actions toward your destiny (Law of Attraction).
- Asking for help allows your supporters to be part of your success
- Most of the time, the other person wants to help and asking lets them feel useful.
The last point is illustrated well by Don Piper in his book 90 Minutes in Heaven, where he describes how he refused offers of help from his hospital visitors during his recovery from a car crash. After counsel from a friend, he decided he needed their help. And, perhaps, more importantly, they needed to help him. “In trying to be strong for them, I had cheated them out of opportunities to strengthen me” he explained. “This is their ministry, I thought, and I’ve been spoiling it.”
But what to do when we muster up the courage to ask for help and then don’t get it? Although this is extremely discouraging, we must trudge on and continue asking others. Recently, some colleagues and I put together a workshop that we believed would be powerful encouragement for women in transition. We all expressed how surprised we were when we asked friends to help us promote the event by sharing it with others and they didn’t do so. When this happens, rather than get discouraged, we must just move on to others who are willing to help.
Who is the best person to ask for help? I believe the best helper is what I call a North Star. Just like the actual star Polaris, this advisor can help you navigate your life.
Recently my husband and I went to a planetarium where we learned how to find Polaris, the North Star, in our Florida night sky. Although other stars move through the sky over the course of the night, the North Star stays in the same place. That’s why ancient mariners, including those Europeans who were the first to cross the Atlantic to Florida, used it to find their way at night.
Each of us needs at least one North Star in our lives. That person helps point the way to our goals, even though the finish line may seem far away. Just as the real one is not seen in the daytime, your personal North Stars will be there for you, even when you don’t see them all the time.
One of the best benefits of your North Star friend may surprise you. It can help with good mental health. A recent study suggests that the stronger your friendships are, the more resilient you are in tough times.3
And, North Stars often will help without being asked. While I was living with my mom during the time she was in Hospice Care, I had several dear friends who regularly sent me words of encouragement – sometimes a card or letter, sometimes a post on Facebook and sometimes an email. It meant so much to me to hear them say I was doing the right thing despite how hard it was. It’s a debt I can never repay.
Be very thankful if you have a North Star in your life – these are your navigators, your cheerleaders, your helpers toward success.
How to Ask
This week I had to ask a favor from several previous clients. It was awkward, but I did it, using the advice of Susan Krauss Whitbourne, PhD, who writes about fulfillment. “Be honest and straightforward,” she advises. “When you’re asking for something from someone, don’t make up a ludicrous set of reasons that exaggerate the extent of the problem or just aren’t true. . . If you’re clear about what you need, you’ll find that most reasonable people can empathize with you and be willing to fulfill that request.”
Finally, remember, most people enjoy being asked to assist. One of the suggestions I often give to anyone considering a new career is to shadow a professional at her place of work. When clients seem hesitant, I assure them that most people are sincerely happy to help others, especially if it means they get to share a little of their professional lives. I have yet to hear of any of my clients asking to shadow someone who turns them down.
This advice is echoed by Margie Warrell in her book Brave, which discusses how much people want and need to help one another. “The truth is,” she asserts, “that we all have gifts to share – time, talent, connections, insights, experience, skills, resources, hospitality. And most people love to share them!”
If this post hasn’t convinced you that asking for help is a win-win proposition, just listen to the words of Ben E. King’s Stand by Me, as performed by artists around the world, for a bit of inspiration.
Rhonda Collins is a career counselor. You can reach her at CollinsCareerCounseling@yahoo.com.
Sources for This Post:
Piper, D. 90 Minutes in Heaven: A True Story of Death and Life. Grand Rapids: Revell, 2004.
Research by Rebecca Graber at the University of Brighton, as reported by Sitzes, Jeane (May 2, 2017). “How Your BFF Really Effects your Mental Health,” Dr. Oz The Good Life.
Whitbourne, S.K. (Feb. 15, 2014). “Four Ways to Ask for, and Get, Your Favors Granted,” Psychology Today.
Warrell, Margie. Brave. Milton, Australia: John Wiley and Sons, 2015.