The Art of Asking for Help

Why is it so hard to ask for help?

What is it that makes asking for help, or even just admitting we need help, so hard? There’s messaging everywhere we look encouraging us to reach out, ask for help, seek support. Despite all these encouragements, we, as a society overall, still struggle with asking for help. Why is that?


This is nothing new – it’s almost a well-known fact that the act of asking for help is believed to be seen as weakness, failure, insufficiency. But where do those beliefs come from? For some, the message that asking for help is “weak” is ingrained during childhood through familial messaging, responses, and stated expectations. It could take the stereotypical forms of a young boy being told that he needs to “toughen up” or the young girl whose feelings are dismissed. Maybe it wasn’t just the family, but the culture that emphasized this messaging that you need to be self-reliant at all times.

When these messages are heard frequently throughout childhood, especially when they come from someone we admire or who holds authority, they become deeply entrenched in our sense of self and how to cope. But difficulty asking for help is not just a long-lasting impact of childhood, it also is influenced by who we are and want to be as adults.


Asking for help, admitting that we need support, requires us to be vulnerable, which isn’t easy. In fact, it’s downright scary for most of us to be vulnerable with those closest to us and who we trust the most, let alone colleagues or those we don’t know as well. Pride and ego can have quite a grasp of us, and vulnerability goes against all that they seek – esteem, self-reliance, stereotypical success. In a way, then, when we are able to ask for help, when we are able to be vulnerable, we are being courageous. Still, though, we struggle.

Lacking Awareness of Need for Help

Let’s imagine that you are willing to ask for help, that you see asking for help as a strength, not a weakness. What could interfere with your ability to seek that support? Self-awareness. Sometimes, we get so caught up in an idea, a dream, a commitment, a desired accomplishment, that we lose touch with what we are capable of doing. Now this incapability does not always mean lack of skills, sometimes it’s lack of emotional and mental energy, time, or resources. Sometimes, our denial of needing help is because we have rooted our identity in doing something or being a certain way. Is that a bad thing? Is it “wrong” to continue pushing forward to prove to ourselves or others we can do it?

The Harm of NOT Asking for Help

When we continue to push ourselves beyond our mental, emotional, physical, or spiritual abilities we are harming our entire self. We are causing significant stress on our mind and body, likely depriving ourselves of essential sleep and food, maybe even disregarding our spiritual needs. This will all likely culminate in a state of despair and self-critique. The ego that pushed you to keep going? It will become your biggest critique. This can lead to further self-doubt and shame, likely impacting the next time you are in need of help. 

Benefits of Asking for Help

On the flip side, when you do ask for help, how often is it actually met with judgment? I’m willing to bet it’s less than you expect. Asking for help opens up a stream of opportunities. These opportunities can be in the form of learning something new, gaining a connection to someone else, or even modeling for another person that it’s OK to ask for help. When we ask for help, we give ourselves permission to be the imperfect humans we are. When we ask for help, we actually increase, not decrease, the chances of our success and happiness. Physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually it’s as if a weight has been lifted off our shoulders and we are receiving support carrying the burden, obstacle, or challenge. We are naturally social beings who are meant to connect with others, to work together. Let’s give ourselves permission to ask for help.

When to Ask for Help

Each person has their own warning signs that their stress and emotional wellbeing is in a state of concern. The best thing you can do is to tune in to your body and mind’s signals that you are approaching that state of distress. What are your signs? Maybe it’s skipping meals, sleeping less (or more), or being less patient than usual. Perhaps your warning signs are that you become overly sarcastic or pessimistic, or perhaps you withdraw and begin to perceive offers of support as attacks against you. If you can identify these warning signs, you can intentionally be on the lookout for their arrival and take action (the action of asking for help) to avoid being overwhelmed and in a state of distress.

How to Ask for Help

First, start with giving yourself permission to ask for help. It will be a lot harder if you are upset with yourself. Instead, tell yourself and believe that it’s OK and even encouraged to ask for help. Once you’ve done that, here are some other ways to effectively ask for help:

Identify the Right Person: Determine who is best to provide the help you need. This could be a friend, family member, colleague, or professional. Consider their expertise, availability, and willingness to assist. Think about your experience with them and who you feel comfortable with.

Be Specific: Clearly articulate what you need help with. Vague requests can lead to misunderstandings and ineffective assistance. For example, instead of saying, “I need help with my project,” say, “I need help organizing the data for my project by Friday.”

Be Honest: Share your reasons for needing help. Honesty fosters trust and understanding. If you’re struggling with a task, explain the challenges you’re facing. If it’s an emotional issue, share your feelings openly to the extent you feel comfortable and it is safe to do so.

Express Gratitude: Acknowledge the person’s willingness to help and express your appreciation. Gratitude not only strengthens your relationship but also makes the person feel valued and respected. A simple thank you can go a long way.

Offer Help in Return: If appropriate, offer to help in return. This creates a mutually supportive dynamic and shows that you value the other person’s time and effort. For instance, you could say, “Thank you for helping me with this report. If you ever need assistance with graphic design, I’d be happy to help.”

Follow Up: After receiving help, provide feedback on how their assistance benefited you. This closes the loop and shows that you value their contribution. It also encourages future cooperation.


Asking for help is a vital skill that can significantly enhance your personal and professional life. While it may be challenging due to fears of vulnerability or judgment, recognizing when and how to seek assistance is essential for overall well-being. By identifying the right person, being specific and honest about your needs, expressing gratitude, and offering reciprocity, you can effectively communicate your need for help. Remember, seeking help is a sign of strength and self-awareness, not weakness. It demonstrates your commitment to personal growth and resilience, ultimately leading to a more balanced and fulfilling life.

Need someone to talk to?

We all need help at some point. If this is a time you’re looking for someone to help you, head to and connect with a peer specialist. 

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