Updated: Nov 5
Asking for help will make you selfless... not selfish.
Not asking for help when I needed it nearly cost me everything. Please don't let that be you.
Too many believe that asking for help is a sign of weakness and that seeking support from another person is even selfish. However, people are wrong to believe this. Asking for help is to be selfless, while to not ask is the more selfish act and I will tell you why.
To ask for help when we need it enables us to achieve more, be more resilient and emotionally aware, hold empathy and have better relationships.
But this is not me trying to preach – I get it.
I understand not wanting to ask for help.
I know the internal drive to be independent, to not seek support even when struggling, to fear being seen as weak or selfish or to feel unworthy of that help.
I Have Been There...
A huge reluctance to ask for help is a personality trait that I, like so many others, still struggle with.
It is also a trait that nearly cost me everything a couple of years ago.
A couple of years ago, I was nearing break-down – physically and mentally and I was very isolated. I was not sure how much longer I could or would go on for but still, despite having people I could go to for help, I would not allow myself to.
I am a fiercely independent person (always have been) and I did not want to be seen as weak or a ‘failure’ by asking for help and admitting that I could not keep going alone. I felt unworthy of the support I knew I needed. I was ashamed and embarrassed.
I hit a point though where I realised it was a case of either allowing myself to be vulnerable and let other people help me or there would be consequences that were not worth thinking about. I had to ask for help.
In my case, at that time, that meant seeking support from my family and allowing myself to lean on them. I know now that if I had not done this, I would not be where I am today.
Asking for help was the best thing I could have done, not just for me, but for those who cared about me too and it allowed me to make the progress I made, become stronger, develop better relationships, be more connected to myself and others and have a future that I am so excited to be living.
I did not have to battle on alone for as long as I did, too independent or embarrassed to ask for help. I did not have to reach the point of near complete breakdown to seek the support that made the difference.
If my story resonates with you then please know that seeking help or support could change your life and you will be doing the selfless thing.
It is hard though…
The Impact of Society on our Ability to Seek or Accept Help
Let's face it, we now live in a world in which more people live alone than ever have in history, creating something some researchers are calling a ‘social experiment' in how people do survive when alone because in evolutionary terms, humans were created to live in tribes. In previous ages, living alone meant near certain death as connection to others is safety and protection.
We also live in a society in which there is a value placed on being independent and self-sufficient and many have the mindset today (as I did) that to ask for help will be perceived by others as a 'weakness'.
But to be too independent rarely gets us far…
To fear asking for help in case we are seen as ‘needy’ can leave us more isolated, feeling unsupported and lead to depression (and this was certainly my experience).
The Benefits of Asking for Help
Asking for help on the other hand and using support when it is needed results in:
A lightening of our load, so the things we do and want to achieve, we can apply more focus to and do better.
An increased likelihood that we will grow and develop when we ask for help as we will learn from the experiences and insight of those we seek support from.
Stronger relationships with the people who help us and a deeper level of connection in what will doubtless become a dependence that is reciprocal.
Our getting out of our own heads, gaining a different perspective on things that are troubling us and so understanding things in a new light, perhaps even re-prioritising or finding solutions ourselves that we could not without that external trigger from another person.
The ability to understand that together we are stronger. Together we do achieve more and a little help can make us more independent, not less so in the long run.
It would seem too that Barack Obama agrees with some of my observations... which only goes to show that to become one of the most powerful people in the world, takes the ability to seek and use help along the way.
The "Helper's High"
If it helps to feel less selfish and more willing to ask for help, it is also good to understand that allowing someone else to help or support us will benefit them too!
Neuroscience now tells us that there is something some are calling a, "helper’s high".
The drive to be ‘altruistic’ or help others stems from the deepest part of our brains, an area that is more instinctive than higher brain regions which are involved in processing and reasoning.
As humans, it is our instinct to want to help others, to ensure our ‘tribe’ are safe.
Plus, when we do help others, the brain releases the brain chemicals, dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin and these all provide us with a boost in mood and a range of positive emotions (as well as physical health benefits!). I am sure you have experienced this yourself when you have provided support or help to someone else – you have felt good when you did so and were left feeling more connected to them too.
Therefore, when you do ask someone for help, their deepest instinct will be to want to support you and their brain will reward them for it by making them feel incredible!
Oxytocin is also known as the ‘cuddle hormone’ as it deepens empathy and connection between people. People supporting one another allows for connection on a deeper level that will serve all parties not just now but into the future too.
We can be the change we need to see!
The culture we live in today, in terms of the level of disconnect and values placed on self-sufficiency, is not serving us but we can start to change that and we will live better and happier lives when we do.
Using support and staying connected can make all the difference to our ability to overcome eating disorders and the other destructive consequences that diet culture can have on us, so that we can achieve all that matters to us and more, thrive and live our best lives.
Whether it is friends, family, colleagues, your boss, a mentor, a coach or someone else entirely that you seek support from, know that, as Brene Brown said, you ‘were never meant to’ do it alone.
For me, I am so grateful I reached for help when I did and that the support was there when I needed it and now I know that asking for and accepting help will make me stronger. I am still a work in progress though – those old tendencies to be self sufficient still sneak in but I keep reminding myself that others are there for me to lean on, as I am for others.
If this post spoke to you then please share it with someone you think needs to hear this message, as the more we understand that asking for help is not the selfish act that many fear, but is in fact selfless, the sooner we get back to a society that is more connected, stronger, healthier and happier... and ultimately, the sooner we heal.
I coach people who are overcoming eating disorders, disordered eating or low body confidence; enabling them to find freedom in a world obsessed with diets.
If you do want to know more about my services, please explore my website and contact me here.