The only mistake you can make is not asking for help. —Sandeep Jauhar

Do you ask for help when you don’t know how to do something or can’t manage it on your own? Or, rather than look stupid and incompetent, do you pretend like you know what you’re doing? Perhaps you think asking for help is a sign of weakness; that if you ask for help you’re admitting you’re inadequate in some way; that you lack knowledge, skill or experience to do something yourself. You don’t want anyone to see that you’re struggling; you want people to think that you’re in control and can handle things.

You get in your own way if you make asking for help mean something negative about you when it doesn’t. Asking for help doesn’t mean you’re stupid or inadequate, it simply means you need help with something specific for a time.

Instead of seeing that we are giving others an opportunity to contribute, we think that asking for help means we are a burden.

But confident people often ask others for help, not only because they’re secure enough to let it be known they need help but they know that trying to do everything themselves is not always the best use of their time, skills or energy and that it can leave them feeling overwhelmed and stressed and then they can’t do things properly. Confident people find someone who’s good at what they need to learn or get done and then ask for their help and guidance. They know that asking, ‘Can you help me?’ shows respect for the other person’s knowledge and abilities. Otherwise, they wouldn’t ask.

Refusing to ask for help is counter-productive; you’re more likely to berate yourself when you can’t get it done well or on time, which only serves to knock your self-esteem and confidence further.

In practice

Refusing to ask for help when you need it is refusing someone the chance to be helpful. —Rick Okasek

Change your beliefs and expectations. Telling yourself, ‘I should know and be able to do this. They’re going to think I’m hopeless if I ask for help’ is unrealistic. More empowering beliefs that will encourage

you to ask for help are, ‘Of course I don’t know everything. Asking for help is responsible, to me and to others. I can get things done well if I ask someone else to help me.’

Tell yourself that asking for help is less embarrassing than failing at whatever you’re finding difficult.

If the problem you’re seeking help for is an aspect of a team project or social event, know that you’re letting other people down by not seeking help; you’re not the only one affected if you refuse to seek help.

Make it easy for someone to help you. Ask the right person for their help – someone who has the ability, knowledge or time. (Don’t ask someone who’ll make you feel stupid for asking.)

Be direct – don’t drop hints, sigh or look sad. Clearly explain what you need help with. Don’t waffle or apologise for needing help. Don’t say, ‘I know you’re really busy, so only if you have time … only if you want to… sorry, I know this is a lot to ask …’ Talking like this infers that you don’t consider yourself, your time or the request to be valuable. Instead, simply say, ‘I need help with … would you be able to … by tomorrow for me?’ This way, the person is clear about what, how and when to help you.

Practise asking for help. Make a list of what you could ask for help with: the laundry? Walking the dog? Maybe you need help to manage a health condition? Ask for help!

Further reading

Let your unconscious mind help you

Does psychotherapy really help?

Why you can't make it alone

Therapy helped me see there is strength in asking for help 

This is an edited extract from Confidence Pocketbook: Little Exercises for a Self-Assured Life by Gill Hasson (published by Capstone)