Is the Fear of Asking for Help Keeping You Stagnant?

“No man is an island entire of itself;” –John Donne, Devotions upon Emergent Occasions, 1624

is the fear of asking for help holding you back?Perhaps it’s my love for literature that makes this quote from John Donne one of my favorites. In reality, however, it’s a gentle reminder that I cannot do everything myself despite the desire to prove that I CAN! While I’m acutely aware of my weaknesses, when it comes to asking for help, I feel as if I’m suddenly putting them on display. Unfortunately, when we hesitate to ask for help, the result is a loss of time, energy, and money. When it continues for longer than it should, it then becomes an entry into our personal failure files. This is the fourth installment on my failures which helps me understand their origins, but to also help you diminish your mistakes.

Part 1: Where does it begin?

In school. While we’re all taught to work well with others and that team work is best, confidence suffers when an idea or request for help is ridiculed by our peers. This happened a lot to me, as it did for many of us.

Result: the good girl in me didn’t stand up for herself. I learned it was safer to remain quiet and do things myself, which included asking for help.

Part 2: Good question vs bad question

Did you hesitate to raise your hand in front of classmates? It’s terrifying, isn’t it? Even so, it wasn’t until the 1990s or so that the phrase, “there is no such thing as a bad question” or “there are others who have the same question” became the IN thing. Where was that phrase while I was growing up? Also, where were the others who had the same question as I did? I would have happily let them take the ‘great question’ credit.

Result: my resistance to put myself out there is deeply ingrained, which amplified my reluctance to ask for help.

Part 3: Business balks

Now I’m older. And wiser. Regardless, when it comes to business, my childhood fears and memories are now adult sized. Life is finite and there is no time to appear weak, especially if we’re recovering from a layoff, unplanned retirement, divorce, debt, or other setback. Asking for help intensifies an unwanted reality. I’m guilty of this, especially following the events of 2009.

Result: growth is SLOW! In my determination to avoid shame and vulnerability, I’ve put the brakes on opportunity. Happiness is delayed.

Lessons Learned

  • What we imagine is far worse than reality. Shame and vulnerability is a by-product of our own making. Once I realized how this mindset damaged my present and my future, I discovered asking for help was far less damaging than the reality I was already living.
  • Referring back to John Donne, human beings do not thrive when isolated from others. I’d like to add we do not grow when isolated from others. Growth occurs when we seek answers, solutions, and simplicity. The way to make that happen is to ask for help.
  • Build a network! These are people who have answers or may know someone who does. The bigger your network, the bigger your pool of experts.
  • Return the favor. It’s funny how eager we are to help others, yet resistant to ask for help ourselves. Why deny someone else of that pleasure?
  • Make it easy. Why do things the hard way when the solution is one question mark away? There are plenty of free resources available, but if it comes down to money, do you hesitate to pay? I’m guilty of floundering around, while hoping to stumble upon the answer in order to save a dollar or two. When I found myself A YEAR LATER no closer to a solution or income, I was furious. If you find yourself still floundering or procrastinating, ask yourself how much income opportunity has been lost by NOT asking for help and NOT willing to pay. You won’t be pleased with the answer. I certainly wasn’t.

In business, as in life, a little failure is inevitable. However, the fear of asking for help shouldn’t be among them. Learn from my mistakes, collect those business questions, then get out there and ask. If you need a little more encouragement, I’m here for you.

Who will you ask for help TODAY?