Episode 053: Asking for Help…Why is it so Hard?

One of the ways to decrease overwhelm is to ask for help, and yet we are SO resistant to it.  In this episode, I explore that resistance and what to do about it.

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Hi, and welcome. You are listening to the Happiness Hacks podcast, formerly Stories from a Quest to Live Happier. The same format, just a different name. I’m your host, Nancy Jane Smith. I’m a licensed professional counselor. In this podcast, I share my stories, lessons, and hacks I have learned and I continue to learn on my quest to live happier. This is episode 53, Asking for Help…Why is it so Hard?

Hey, everyone. Welcome. I’m so excited to be here. It’s a beautiful sunny day in my corner of the world. Today I want to talk about asking for help. Why is it so hard? This has been a theme that’s come up in my world lately, and it was triggered by a conversation with my cousin. We were talking about just asking for help and why we struggle so much with it. So I want to cover a couple of reasons why I think we struggle and encourage you to get curious as to why you struggle if you do struggle with asking for help, why you struggle and busting out of that mold. Because what happens is, we are so overwhelmed. We’re overwhelmed and stressed out because there’s too much on our plate. If there’s too much on our plate, there are two things you can do about it. One, take some stuff off. Learning how to say no. Learning how to set boundaries. And two, asking for help; asking someone to take a little bit off your plate. Today we’re just going to be talking about option two, the asking for help piece because there’s so much resistance to that.

Some of the reasons I have come up with is the myth of being strong. The myth of being strong comes from the idea, I think a lot of women believe that we’re strong and independent and we don’t need anyone, and so we’re not gonna ask anyone for help because we’re strong and independent. But, when you get curious about what’s underneath that strength, and I know this is true for me and many of my friends is that we’re afraid of taking up too much space in the world. We’re afraid of being too demanding, too in charge, too large and in charge, too out of control. So we learn that we need to be “strong” and we take on this myth of strength that we can handle it. We’ve got it all taken care of; it’s all fine. Underneath that strength is a huge fear that no one cares. No one’s gonna show up, so if I take care of everything, then I don’t have to worry about getting hurt when people say no to me or when people let me down, or when people don’t do it the way I want them to. Paying attention to what’s underneath that myth of strong, if that’s something that you can relate to.

Another piece of that is wanting to do it right. I hear this all the time, “I can’t ask my husband to do the dishes because he won’t do them right,” or, “I can’t ask them to go to the grocery store because they won’t do it right.” I hear that. Trust me; I totally hear that. But the idea that there’s a right way to do everything let’s get a little curiosity around that. Like, what’s that about? That we think there’s only one way to do everything. So, that idea of perfectionism and that inner critic chiming in that there’s a black and white way to do everything in the world. And so, your husband may load the dishwasher differently than you, and that’s okay. He may go to the grocery store and forget some stuff. That’s okay. It’s figuring out ways around that and allowing room for the gray and the mess-ups and the mistakes, rather than just jumping in and trying to fix everything in the perfectionistic inner critic way.

Those are two ways. The third way I came up with is just plain old the resistance we get when we change our ways. If you have become a control freak and you don’t ask for help, and you’ve set the dynamic in your life that you just do everything when you start to change that and you start asking for help it’s gonna be a bumpy road. You’re gonna get some resistance, because if you’ve taken care of everything in your house, suddenly people are gonna be like, “What’s happening? Why isn’t she doing everything?” That resistance sometimes can be challenging, especially if you’re dealing with perfectionism and that inner critic because you want to jump in and fix it. To pay attention to how much instead of sitting in the resistance, and allowing time for your family to catch on or your coworkers to catch on that they are going to have to pick up some slack here, you jump in and fix it. Or, that they may not do it the way you think they should, or the way they may flail and flop around and not know what they’re doing. That’s all part of the process. Allowing room for growth, from you and the people that you’re used to helping, or you’re used to doing everything for I should say, kind of allowing that space.

Those are the three main things I came up with of why is it so hard. One is the myth of strength. Two is the perfectionism like they won’t do it right. And the third one is resistance. I encourage you to get curious on what comes up for you around this asking for help. Maybe those three don’t pertain to you and you have a different one. That’s cool. The idea here is to kind of start getting underneath, “What is this? Why is this so hard for me? Why am I struggling with this asking for help?”

Okay, so taking those reasons that we’ve come up with, I came up with some reasons why, how to get around that. You know, what can we do? Yeah, I know I don’t like asking for help. I know I’m really resistant to it. So, what do I do about it? Well, the first thing I would say is to embrace the gray. It isn’t black and white. There’s not a right way and a wrong way to do stuff, so when you ask for help, it really is challenging your sense of there’s a thousand ways to do something. You may ask your kids to take out the trash, and they may not do it the way you would. You know, my husband, one of his jobs is to take out the trash, and he inevitably, every time, does not put a new trash bag in. Like, he just doesn’t do it. He totally forgets. He takes the trash out and then moves on to the next thing. And so, that has become my job to put the new trash bag in. Now it’s become kind of a joke between us. It was a major annoyance at the beginning.

But to recognize, you know, it just isn’t on his radar screen to put the trash bag back in, and that’s okay. I can do that piece because I’m grateful for the fact that he takes the trash out, to begin with. Instead of jumping all over, like, “I’m gonna do the whole thing and take the trash out because he doesn’t do it right.” No, he just misses this one little step, and I can pick up that slack. Recognizing that they don’t have to do it perfectly right every time, they’re easing the burden, and that’s what this is all about.

The other thing is, when we ask, we’re changing the pattern, and we’re asking for help, and it’s a relatively new thing. We might ask once, and if it doesn’t go the way we think it should, we quit. That’s a challenge there, too. Again, with the embracing the gray, that you’re gonna have to ask multiple times, and it’s gonna get bumpy and it’s gonna get yucky. So, recognizing that this is a process, asking for help is a process when you haven’t been asking for help. Learning how to ask once, and then maybe you’ll need to remind them again. That’s okay. It’s getting the new pattern built. It doesn’t mean it’s failing or you’re doing it wrong. That’s the inner critic. It just means that this is a process. So, kind of really embracing that gray.

Then the question to ask yourself is, “What’s the priority here?” If your goal is to decrease your plate, then to pick the tasks that you can ask for help on. Probably are gonna be pretty low priority tasks for you. They’re not gonna have as much importance. To pick the low priority tasks, like taking out the trash for me, and to recognize, “Okay, it’s okay if he doesn’t do it perfectly correctly.” You know, loading the dishwasher. My husband and I have very different ways of loading the dishwasher, but I don’t want to load the dishwasher. That’s a low priority for me. The fact that he doesn’t do it the way I want him to, that’s okay. Recognizing what’s the priority here, the tasks. For me, going to the grocery store, I want certain food, and so even though my husband has offered multiple times to go, that’s my priority to go to the grocery store. I like getting the food. To recognize that’s not something I’m gonna ask for help around, unless I’m desperate.

There are a number of tasks that I have dropped the priority level. This is a challenge. If you’re like, “Oh, all my tasks are the same priority,” I’m gonna ask you to push back on that a little bit and say, “They’re probably not.” You probably have a variety of levels of priority. We have just told ourselves that everything is super important, and it’s not. When you’re asking for help, really get clear on what’s the priority.

The last one is compassion. Have compassion for yourself that this is a hard process to change. Have compassion for those around you who you are challenging to change, probably against their will, that it’s a process. It’s gonna be hard. It’s gonna be sticky. You know, really being kind to yourself and to others, and being persistent that this is gonna take some time and it takes multiple tries. So really, the idea of embracing that gray, getting out of the black and white because that is your inner critic. Anytime you have a right or wrong thinking, remind yourself, “Where is the gray here? Where can I see some fuzzy lines?” And then, prioritizing. What’s the priority here? What can I get rid of and it won’t make a difference? And then, having some compassion with yourself and those around you who are trying to change.

If you have any questions or push-back on this topic, please email me

Weekly Ritual Segment:

One thing that has really helped me Live Happier is adding regular ritual practices to my daily life so each week I am going to be sharing a ritual with you and challenge you to complete it

Doing a Chore? Be Fully Present

From laundry to doing dishes we all have “chores” we HAVE to do.  Because we are basically stuck doing these activities, this is a great time to practice being mindful.  This week as you do your chores, bring yourself fully in the moment. Take some deep breaths and ask yourself What do I feel? What do I see? What do I smell? What do I hear? Put on some good music and fully embrace being present.

Check out my Instagram where I share my daily check in with the weekly ritual practice. It is a helpful way for both of us to stay accountable to the practice.

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