How can I ask for what I need? I feel frustrated and alone when I’m stretched too thin, and I know I could benefit from some help. But I don’t want to make anyone feel bad, obligated, or inconvenienced. It seems like I have to do everything on my own! I want to ask for help, but I don’t know how.
It is all too common for many of us to withhold our needs from others, even when we’re overwhelmed, tired, and strung out. We see how much others go through and we never want to be burden, inconvenience them, or seem incapable of helping ourselves. Help from others may even be outright rejected, as we reason that it was not genuinely offered or would be “asking too much.” As a result, many people feel isolated and alone, and do not have the support they need.
But what if I told you that asking for help is actually a way to be good to others? Hear me out on this one. Imagine you have a friend or family member who was clearly in need. Maybe they are sick, or overwhelmed, or went through something difficult. I bet imagining isn’t even needed! I bet you know a few people in need right now. Imagine you have what they need, be it the ability to pick up cough syrup, take a task off their to do list, or just sit with and hug them. Imagine you were able and willing to do that, or extended the offer, and that person turned you down for the same reasons listed above.
For many of us, when our help is not used or is rejected, it does not feel good. For some, this creates distance or a sense that the relationship is not close enough to accept help. For some, this is viewed as a sign that we are not able to help, fostering feelings of powerlessness or inability. Many people view their styles of helping others as a part of their identity, and this rejection can feel like a rejection of their whole self!
Now imagine your help is accepted. Imagine being able to care for someone you care about. Imagine meeting someone’s needs and knowing that you were helpful. Many people find this to be exciting, joyful, or even a source of pride. On top of that, many people will find they now feel closer in that relationship than before.
When we ask for help or assert our needs in a positive way, we are doing more than just making a request. Asking for help provides others with an opportunity to feel useful, competent, trusted, and proud. Asking for help also creates chances for deeper connection and growth in our relationships. It can even set a precedent that help is okay, so that others give you a chance to help them in the future.
Sharing our needs is good for us, for others, and for our connections. For many reasons, this can be difficult to put into practice. Whether you have difficulty finding words for your needs, do not know what you need, or have had experiences that make this much harder, therapy can be a safe space to learn about yourself and practice this skill.
At Emily Cook Therapy, we are here to help you do just that. All you need to do is ask!
This post was written by Anna White, an experienced therapist for individuals, children, adolescents, and families at Emily Cook Therapy in Bethesda, MD.