• Kamron Collins-Johnson

Why It's Ok to Ask for Help

When I was a kid, I was not scared to put myself out there. Take Valentine’s Day. I was not afraid to let any boy I had a crush on know my true feelings via a well-thought-out

note on the back of a Looney Toons Valentine’s Day card placed inside his homemade Valentine’s Box. Believe me, I came out of the womb a flirty girl. You know how when you’re in middle school or high school and they do class superlatives? After the 8th Grade spring dance, I came home with a bright red pair of 3M paper lips claiming that I was the Class Flirt. True story.

As I moved through high school and college, not much changed on that front. What did change though, was a slow process of fearing rejection. Obviously, not every man I pined for wanted me back if you can believe that. Over time, I developed a serious fear of being rejected that I still carry today. And this leads me to the topic I want to talk about today, why it’s so hard to ask for help.

The number one reason people fear asking others for help is the fear of rejection. We think that by asking for help when we need it that others will view us as weak. Being unable to ask for help is related to low self-esteem. Typically, people with low self-esteem undervalue and neglect their own needs meaning they continuously put other people’s needs before their own. They believe that their owns wants and needs just don’t matter or that they don’t deserve to have what they want. Or maybe you were shamed during your developmental years for asking for help so your fear is rooted in that negative experience. For some, asking for help feels as if they are surrendering control to someone else. It’s embarrassing to admit you don’t have all the answers. But guess what? No one person has all the answers. Even Einstein worked with a team and he was no dummy. Whether you realize it or not, not asking for help can actually send the wrong message – a sign of low self-awareness or immaturity rather than a confident and capable person. And finally, people don’t ask for help simply because they don’t know how. But here’s where it gets tricky. Constantly asking for help and advice is not a great way to build relationships – professional or otherwise. I used to work with a woman who could never figure things out on her own. She came at with me (and everyone else) with a constant barrage of questions and it got so bad that people stopped helping her and told her to just “figure it out.” Which is not helpful to anyone involved. However, this doesn’t mean you should avoid it altogether. So let’s walk through the process.

You know when you’re a kid and you come home past curfew and your parents give you the third degree about where you’ve been? The story usually starts with well, I was with Jenny, you know the really nice girl who gets really good grades? She’s probably going to be valedictorian one day. Well, she has this really adorable brother who we ran into and we got to talking about how he was liking college but that he has this English professor who’s a jerk and is requiring his students to write a paper about who they are and well, he just doesn’t really know who he is yet so we hung out and talked about who he really is and how he’s achieved so much at such a young age. Did you know that he was the youngest person to start the underwater basket weaving club at his school? Well anyway, we were talking through all that and before I knew it, time got away from me and so I didn’t want to race home because I didn’t want to get pulled over so I drove the speed limit all the way home so I wouldn’t get a ticket and that’s what caused me to be late. It’s at this point that your parents have completely lost their minds and declare that you’re grounded until further notice.

This, my friends, is what I like to call a big, fat, waste of time. You’re talking and talking and talking and no one is quite sure what point you’re trying to get to. The point is, you were late, and you have to deal with that. The same is true for asking for help. Pretending you don’t need help won’t make the problem go away. So, you have to buck up and face it. And you need to be specific. Be specific and get to the point. Skip the long stories and irrelevant tangents – people have things to do, you included. If the person you’re asking for help needs more details, trust me, they’ll ask.

There are so many things to gain by asking for help. You gain the ability to move forward rather than staying stuck. By not asking for help when you really needed it, I’m sure you weren’t as productive as you could have been than if you’d just gotten the answers you needed. You also gain the opportunity to collaborate. We’ve all been taught that group work sucks, but when you find an amazing group of people who have the same goals as you, working together to solve problems can be an absolute joy! You also gain the opportunity to learn, not just learning something new, but also figuring out who is willing to help you and who isn’t. If you have someone on your team who is a selfish a-hole then you’ll quickly learn to steer clear and not get sucked into their vortex. Trust me, you don’t need that kind of negativity in your life.

What kind of teacher would I be if I didn’t flip the script on you at this point? So I have to ask, what you are like to people who come to YOU for help? Are you hostile and impatient replying with “go figure it out?” Or are you willing and able and ready to lend a hand? If you had to go to you for help, would you? If the answer is no, then it’s time to take a hard look in the mirror and figure out how you can be better than that. Everyone needs help from time to time, including you so if you aren’t willing to help others, don’t think they will be willing to help you when you need it. Plus, there’s a whole host of benefits to helping others – it makes you feel good, it creates a sense of belonging and community, and studies have shown that helping others can help you live longer!

I have one more short point to make here – and that is, Google can be your friend. If your problem has an easy solution, look it up first. For example, I’m in this Facebook group for teachers and it slays me how often someone will post a question that could have been easily Googled. In fact, in the time it took them to ask the question, they could’ve found the answer. But when you actually need another human to help you be specific, skip the long stories, and don’t let the fear of rejection stop you from asking! Remember, pretending you don’t need help won’t make your problem go away.

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