What You May Miss When You Don’t Ask for Help

Do you find it hard to ask for help?

Many smart people, especially women, are more comfortable offering or providing assistance than they are receiving and accepting it.

ask for help

Four Common Reasons Smart People Don’t Ask for Help

In reflecting on many conversations I’ve had with my clients over the years, I believe there are four common reasons talented individuals are afraid to ask for help:

  • They don’t feel comfortable letting down their guard. They may fear what might happen if others see their vulnerabilities.
  • Some are ashamed that they experience challenges given that they have resources and/or talents.
  • Not wanting to burden someone else, they believe they should be able to do figure things out on our own.
  • For others, they had asked for help in the past, but never received it or they were not satisfied with the results.

Two Less-Known Reasons Smart People Don’t Ask for Help

Two additional reasons smart people don’t seek out help stem from them not realizing they need it. That’s understandable; you can’t know what you don’t know.

I illustrate each reason below, using myself as an example:

  • Though people experience the problem’s symptoms, they may not know its root. A few years ago, I discovered that my waistline was growing even though I exercised somewhat regularly. I tried to focus on what I ate, but didn’t see any improvements. My mother and friends told me it was probably because I was aging. When I finally saw my doctor, I learned I had fibroids that had grown so large, it was as if I was four months’ pregnant! I was able to stop telling myself I was “old” or “lazy” and start taking the steps to solve the underlying health problem.
  • Unless people have experienced it firsthand, they may not feel the full impact of receiving help or understand how it can spread positively into other aspects of their life. Since I founded Life Junctions, I’ve been good about keeping track of key information about my business. As a researcher, I knew I “should” review the data, but I never did. On the advice of a mentor, I hired a consultant to help me. The key questions he posed forced me to look at my data systematically. I soon realized I made some false assumptions about my business. Working with the consultant helped me understand what I needed to focus on and what I could ignore–making the entire process easier and fruitful.

My clients experience this, too.

They sometimes find that what they initially hired me for isn’t what they had really wanted or needed:

  • Many clients hire me to help them find a different job. As we work together, they realize that what they’ve been doing isn’t so bad after all. In fact, with some tweaking at home or the office, their work situation can feel a lot more satisfying.
  • Similarly, a number of stay-at-home moms hire me to help them reenter the workforce. Shortly thereafter, some realize that their circumstances make it difficult to be employed. So we work on other projects or endeavors that use, say, a different side of their brain than the one required to care for children. Or I help them apply their expertise in more satisfying ways that fit their schedule.

My clients sometimes gain benefits they couldn’t have previously imagined:

  • Clients who are able to vent safely and confidentially about someone or something that has been bothering them are able to see the situation in a new light. They may have blamed themselves for that situation, not realizing how the self-blame was eating them up inside.
  • I’ve been able to point out my clients’ special talents that they’d taken for granted or hadn’t realized they had. With that self-awareness, they are able to use their “secret weapon” in new situations and feel more confident.
  • I often summarize relevant information from research studies for my clients. They feel energized when they can use that information to try out a tactic or approach they hadn’t thought of before. Moreover, they enjoy seeing how the information works and making it their own.

So what are you waiting for? Ask for help and find out what you may be missing.


An older version of this article was first published in October 2016.