5 Tips From a Psychologist: Learning to Ask and Accept Help

Do you feel like you’re on the verge of a breakdown because of how overwhelming all of your responsibilities are? Do you think that asking someone for help means admitting your failure? If you’ve answered “yes” to both of these questions, chances are, you’re one of the people who jeopardize their own well-being and success by refusing to ask for and accept help, no matter how necessary it might be. Luckily, here are a few tips to help you get better.

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#1 Understand that Trying to Do Everything on Your Own Means Self-Sabotaging

Refusal to delegate is a feature that a lot of over-achievers share. They think that no matter how competent their peers and colleagues are, they can’t possibly do anything better than themselves. As a result, they often end up with so much on their plates that burnout or a full-on mental breakdown is inevitable.

High-performing students in challenging majors and top colleges tend to do everything on their own too. Their classmates know that if they ask a professional, “can you write my paper for me on PaperWriter” every once in a while, it’s totally okay. But a lot of their over-achieving peers think that asking for help means admitting one’s incompetence and weakness.

This couldn’t be more wrong, though. In fact, admitting that you can’t do it all and knowing that it’s perfectly fine to ask for help are among the signs of high emotional intelligence. It takes self-awareness and courage to admit that you’re overwhelmed and drowning in countless tasks. And it also takes a lot of trust in others and their ability to do a good job.

#2 Find out Why You’re Uncomfortable Asking for Help

The first step you need to take to learn how to ask for and accept help is to determine what exactly it is that makes it difficult for you to do so. Reasons vary, but they are typically much deeper than you probably think. People don’t refuse to delegate just because they think that they are better than anyone else. It’s way more complicated than that.

One of the common reasons why we might struggle with asking for help is the fear of losing control. It’s completely natural. We live in a turbulent world. So it’s only natural that we’re doing everything in our power to minimize the uncertainty in our lives. And trying to control everything sure seems like a good way to have more certainty. But if you feel anxious 90% of the time, it might be time to work on your inability to let go of control.

Another common reason why a lot of people find it difficult to ask for help is the fear of showing vulnerability. They think that if others see that they don’t always have it together, people will no longer respect them. But it’s quite the opposite. Research proves that employees prefer managers who recognize their weaknesses and show emotion.

#3 Use Cognitive Reframing

Cognitive reframing is one of the strategies used in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). It implies thinking through all the catastrophic scenarios you have in your head, like “they will think I’m incompetent and will never work with me again” or “if I don’t complete this task on my own, I won’t get the promotion.”

Then, you’re supposed to try to identify negative patterns in your thinking and change them for the better. For example, reframe the “if I ask for help, they’ll think I’m incompetent” into “if I ask for help, they’ll see that I’m good at delegating and a team player.”

Sure, CBT works best when practiced with your therapist. But with some background reading and practice, it’s totally possible to master the cognitive reframing and use it without any professional assistance. If you’re confused about where to start, try The Anxiety and Worry Workbook and The CBT Toolbox. Both are equally helpful for therapists and their clients.

#4 Journal

If you want to make progress and overcome your dysfunctional thinking patterns, you can’t do without continuous self-reflection. Journaling is one of the best ways to approach it. You can stick to the classics and use a paper journal. But if the idea of writing by hand in 2022 terrifies you, try one of the helpful journaling apps.

Here are a few great ones:

  • Day One. Day One is a straightforward and easy-to-navigate app with everything you need as a beginner journal writer. But it’s only available for Mac users.
  • Diarium. Diarium is a nice alternative to Day One for Windows users. It takes a little longer to understand how the app works. But once you do, you’ll enjoy how much Diarium has to offer (it’s a lot).
  • Grid Diary. Grid Diary might be the best option for beginners because it offers templates. It’s much easier to start journaling when you have specific prompts to respond to (for example, “What I am grateful for” and “What would make today great?”).

#5 Consider Getting Professional Help

Finally, if you can, do reach out to a professional therapist. Sure, you can make progress on your own. But it will be much slower and less effective than if you have an expert guiding you and helping you understand yourself better. Think of this as the first step toward learning to be comfortable asking for help.

A lot of beneficial CBT strategies are near-impossible to use without a therapist. Anyone who struggles with asking for and accepting help should try role-playing and successive approximation (breaking seemingly impossible tasks into smaller, doable steps). Just like cognitive reframing, these techniques are much more helpful when guided by a professional.

An Afterword

Overall, it’s totally possible to learn how to ask for help and be okay with accepting it when offered. First, you need to understand why you struggle with this so much. Then, you can use such helpful strategies as cognitive reframing and journaling to get better at delegating. As always, professional help from a therapist will speed up your progress massively.

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