“Help me please”. Very difficult words for those who experience real discomfort in asking for support or help and overcome their difficulties. When the fear of being weak outweighs the desire to succeed.
The request for help and therefore its acceptance are often very complex and tiring to implement. In fact, many people are based on a strong sense of autonomy and independence that leads them to never ask for support and to do everything alone. For many, asking for help is something completely remote and unacceptable. But the reasons behind not asking and accepting help are many.
Getting help: a cultural question
The difficulty in getting help and seeing the request for support and help as a symbol of weakness has a very ancient cultural heritage. It is not difficult to go back to that not too distant imagination of skilled warriors, especially males, had to be strong and courageous and the possibility of needing, of not succeeding, was not accepted and, in any case, was synonymous with little value and little “manhood”. They were used to doing everything independently and being self-sufficient. Today this mentality is widespread, both among men and women, especially in Western society, where strong individualism, the tendency to perfectionism, the dictat of performance and success, often risk leading to a sense of strong independence and need to do everything in total autonomy, alone, to prove that you are worthy, worth and deserve. Demonstrating that you are unable to “hurry” on your own is considered not very functional in achieving the required performance objectives, fearing losing credibility, trust and esteem and therefore reducing the chances of success in work and in life.
Getting help: the role of education
Education also plays an important role in the ability to ask for help. Growing up in a family where it is taught that asking for help is not possible, which is a symbol of weakness and incapacity, can in fact convey a sense of inadequacy with respect to the need to get help and therefore the tendency not to do it, to get by alone, until to the extreme of strength. This happens in all those situations in which the family urges autonomy and independence which, however, touches on total, or almost total, inattention to the needs of others. So you no longer have that healthy and necessary education to be autonomous and take on your responsibilities, burdens and honors, but you get to excesses, not even contemplating the possibility of needing, making mistakes or being in difficulty. This type of education generates a strong sense of discomfort in asking for help, thus often leading to not doing it and “silencing” one’s need.
Getting help: shame and pride
Other obstacles to overcome in asking for support are the sense of shame generated in doing so and / or pride. Shame arises from the thought that asking for help exposes you to a fragility and a sense of weakness that you do not want to show to the other. Showing oneself in need and unable to resolve an issue independently creates discomfort and exposes to possible judgments on one’s value and abilities. This deeply “hurts” the pride which, especially for some people is very strong and the idea of sharing a possible action or resolution of a problem with someone, then having to thank or, even worse, share the merits, is something really complicated to accept. So much easier is to try to do it in total autonomy.
Getting help: Difficulty admitting the problem
One of the strongest reasons for the inability to ask and then accept it, lies in the primary difficulty of admitting that you have a problem or a need. In fact, many people struggle with this because it generates a sense of inadequacy, inability and failure. All extremely tiring sensations to accept and overcome. Instead, it is easier to hide from yourself and others that you need help and support and to persevere in your dysfunctional and sometimes painful state, behavior or attitude. This is what happens especially in cases of mental illness or inadequate and “dangerous” behavior. Behind the inability and difficulty in accepting the need for support there are many feelings and thoughts, such as the sense of inadequacy in dealing with a situation, the feeling that it is too big in itself and difficult to deal with, or the belief that the behavior assumed is adequate and does not benefit negative consequences, but rather it is sometimes effective in appeasing and keeping them at bay.
Getting help: fear of rejection
Another aspect involved in asking for help is the fear that it will be denied and that the consequences of the request are too painful and complex to bear. Often in these cases there is a past learning in which requests for help or the expression of a need, for example from children, have generated responses of denial, or in some cases a real lack of response. The unpleasant sensations and the fear of encountering other and multiple “closed doors” leads to a struggle in expressing one’s needs and concealing difficulties, deemed unworthy of help and support and oneself unimportant and adequate to receive support. For all these reasons and, certainly other particular and personal ones, people find it hard to ask for help. What is certain is that making a request of this type is never easy, for anyone, because it implies opening up, admitting to failing alone, also showing one’s weaknesses or points of inadequacy. However, it is equally true that the request for help is the first step for change: towards well-being in case of pathology or psychological or physical discomfort, towards learning in case of school or work fatigue, towards growth, improvement, the growth of resources, knowledge and skills. This is because in showing one’s weaknesses and giving the possibility to others to compensate for them, it often allows us to discover sides and resources that we did not think we had or to learn new strategies and more functional modes of action. Therefore, asking for help is an act of courage towards yourself which gives you the possibility to make mistakes, to fall to improve and grow.