If you’re over 40 and going through a situation where you need a helping hand, there’s a good chance that you might have trouble asking for it. The reasons why it’s hard for some of us to ask for help vary, but often they’re stemmed in our upbringing. As children of the 60’s and 70’s, many of us come from families that placed an emphasis on not complaining. We might come from religious backgrounds that valued being stoic. Or perhaps self worth was never something that was nurtured and now, it’s tough to feel like we deserve to ask for assistance. Of course we also have to look at the fact that many of us from the baby boomer generation were brought up in the era of the “independent woman”. While this was great on some levels, we were also given messages that needing support was admitting that we couldn’t actually handle our independence. Family, self worth and the society we were influenced by are just some of the reasons why asking for what we need often feels a lot harder than it has to be.
One of the benefits of life now is that we've become brave. We're more willing to investigate our patterns and our upbringing and in turn, we’re chipping away at the old roadblocks that have kept us stuck in the past. If you have trouble getting help you might find yourself continually dwelling on a problem to the point where it seems to be insurmountable. Other disempowering results can be health issues such as stress related illness, insomnia and eating or substance abuse to stuff your emotions away. Recognizing that by not reaching out, you're causing more harm than necessary, is a fantastic way to start changing an old pattern. Here are some other ways to create a new habit of asking for what you need.
1. Recognize the emotion that comes up when you need to ask for help
When we want to ask for help, but we feel uncomfortable, it’s important to recognize exactly what is going on. Ask yourself, “What emotion am I feeling?” Common emotions are shame, embarrassment, fear and pride. Becoming aware of your feelings is a really important element to discover when questioning blocks to asking for health because most of the time, we simply give up as soon as a negative feeling comes up. But if we actually question what we’re feeling, we have an opportunity to see exactly what the emotion is trying to tell us.
2. Interrogate the emotion that comes up when you need to ask for help
One way of reducing the “charge” that an emotion has is by asking some pointed questions. For instance, if you are embarrassed to ask for help, question what’s behind the embarrassment. Ask yourself how you learned to be embarrassed about asking for help? Did you get these feelings as a child from a parent? Were you ridiculed in school for asking questions? Try and identify where this feeling came from. While you might not be able to “undo” the circumstance that created this emotion, you can, at the very least, recognize where it came from and feel some compassion for that part in you that had to go through it. Once this is complete, you can consider ways to let this emotion go.
3. Realize you make a choice when you decide to not ask for help
Many of us forget to consider the benefits of what could happen if we put aside the negative emotions that might come up and ask for help despite the difficult feeling. We also don’t consider that in allowing an emotion to control us we are making a choice to stay small and stuck. Lori Deschene, who is the founder of tinybuddha.com has a fantastic quote that can be applied to the idea of not asking for help. She says, “Pain is not a sign of weakness but bearing it alone is a choice to grow weak.” A great question to ask yourself if you have problems asking for help is, “If I don’t ask for help, why am I choosing to grow weak?”
If asking for help is a challenge for you, these three suggestions are a fantastic starting point for reversing a dysfunctional pattern. My question for you is, if you’re ready to “grow strong” and ask for help, what emotion do you need to face and release? Post your comment below.
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(price as of Aug 9, 2014)