Updated: Sep 4
By Rhonda Collins, I Start Wondering Columnist
“Behind every successful man is a woman rolling her eyes.” This assertion by Jim Carrey’s character in the film Bruce Almighty is one of my husband’s favorite movie lines.
While that quote may be funnier, I believe that a truer statement is “Behind every successful person is a chorus of loved ones saying, ‘You can do it!’” Those cheerleaders are the ones who help us through tough times and celebrate our happy times.
And yet, many of us are reluctant to stop for a moment and ask any one of those supporters for assistance when we need it.
The top seven reasons why we DON’T ask for help are:
We don’t want to impose.
We think it makes us seem weak or needy.
We are not sure exactly what we need.
We feel uncomfortable sharing something personal.
We are afraid we might be turned down – and that rejection could feel worse than going it alone.
We worry that we will be obligated to someone if they help us.
We are scared we will lose control of the situation because they may give us advice we don’t like or solve the problem differently than we would.
We are waiting for someone to notice we need help.
While each of these excuses represents a legitimate negative emotion, they are outweighed by the many more positive reasons to secure help.
The top seven reasons why we SHOULD ask for help:
Asking for help is a sign of strength. It means you are willing to admit you are not Wonder Woman.
When you ask for help in a timely manner, you can avoid making matters worse, especially in relation to money.
Requesting support strengthens your relationships with others, and lets you see who really cares about you and your future.
Something a friend says can inspire you, motivate you or send you in a whole different trajectory that you may not have considered.
By asking a friend (or the universe) for your specific needs, it can set in motion indiscernible actions toward your destiny (Law of Attraction).
Asking others for help allows your supporters to be part of your success.
Most of the time, the other person wants to help and asking lets them feel useful and needed.
The last point is well-illustrated by Don Piper in his book, 90 Minutes in Heaven: A True Story of Death and Life. Initially, Piper refused offers of help from visitors while he was recovering from a car crash. After counseling from a friend, he decided he needed their help and–perhaps, more importantly–they needed to help him. “In trying to be strong for them, I had cheated them out of opportunities to strengthen me” he explained. “This is their ministry, I thought, and I’ve been spoiling it.”
When Someone Says “No”
But, what to do when we muster up the courage to ask for help and then don’t get it? Although this is extremely discouraging, we must trudge on and continue asking others.
Recently, some colleagues and I put together a workshop that we believed would be powerful encouragement for women in transition. We were all surprised that the friends we asked to help us promote the event by sharing it with others did not do so.
When this happens, rather than giving up on external support, we must simply move on to others who are willing to help.
Finding Your North Star
Who is the best person to ask for help? I believe the best helper is what I call a North Star. Just like the actual star Polaris, this advisor can help you navigate your life.
My husband and I went to a planetarium where we learned how to find Polaris, the North Star, in our night sky. Although other stars move through the sky over the course of the night, the North Star stays in the same place. That’s why ancient mariners, including those Europeans who were the first to cross the Atlantic to Florida, used it to find their way at night.
Each of us needs at least one North Star friend in our life. That person helps point the way to our goals, even though the finish line may seem far away. Just as the real North Star is not seen in the daytime, your personal North Stars will be there for you, even when you don’t see them all the time.
Benefits of North Stars
One of the best benefits of your North Star friend may surprise you. For example, these types of friends can support your mental health. A 2017 study suggests that the stronger your friendships are, the more resilient you are in tough times.
And, North Stars often will help without being asked. I was living with my mom while she was in the last few months of her life. During that time, several dear friends regularly sent me words of encouragement – sometimes a card or letter, sometimes a post on Facebook, and sometimes an email. It meant so much to me to hear them say I was doing the right thing, despite how hard it was. It’s a debt I can never repay.
Be very thankful if you have a North Star in your life – these are your navigators, your cheerleaders, your sidekicks on the journey to success.
How to Ask
Recently I had to ask a favor from several previous clients. It was awkward, but I did it, using the advice of Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D., who writes about fulfillment in Psychology Today. “Be honest and straightforward,” she advises. “When you’re asking for something from someone, don’t make up a ludicrous set of reasons that exaggerate the extent of the problem or just aren’t true… If you’re clear about what you need, you’ll find that most reasonable people can empathize with you and be willing to fulfill that request.”
Remember, most people enjoy being asked to assist. I often suggest that clients who are considering a new career should shadow a professional at their place of work. When clients seem hesitant, I assure them that most people are sincerely happy to help others, especially if it means they get to share a little of their professional lives. I have yet to hear of anyone turning my clients down.
This advice is echoed by Margie Warrell in her book, Brave, which discusses how much people want and need to help one another. “The truth is,” she asserts, “that we all have gifts to share – time, talent, connections, insights, experience, skills, resources, hospitality. And most people love to share them!”
Do you know who might help you with a certain problem or situation? Ask them today. You’ll both be glad you did.
You can reach Rhonda at CollinsCareerCounseling@yahoo.com.