It is time that we recognize that accepting or asking for help is a completely different story from offering help. Yes there are many resources available in the world but accepting them still comes with some prejudices. I know we say they aren’t there but they are. We have all been programmed to think a certain way about asking for and accepting help. Let’s discuss which one is preventing you from accepting help. Let’s bring those reasons out of the dark!
5 Motivations For Not Asking For Or Accepting Help
1. The shame of help
Shame comes in two fold so let’s discuss them in their respective fold as well.
1.1 You could be ashamed to need help
You have a group of people who feel ashamed to need help with whatever it is they are facing. They won’t accept help because they would then admit in a way to needing help.
Our society pushing us to be our own person has certainly contributed to there being a certain shame surrounding actually needing help. From a particular age we’re supposed to have things figured out, right? I’m pretty certain you have heard a number attached to this. We’re supposed to no longer need any kind of help because we should’ve learned how to figure things out on our own.
Well yes, sure, but since when have we become the all known in that process? We have not, thus one of the fuels of shame for needing help is completely unjustified. We can’t know it all to figure it out ourselves and we can’t do it all by ourselves. Certain things are just better done with help. To name something simple; lifting a couch. Unless you’re Thanos you’re going to need help with that.
So I ask, why is it that with physical things the shame surrounding the need for help dissipates because it “literally” is impossible to gain extra strength overnight? But when we are talking about needing help for things surrounding our mental health the shame persists for-ever?
Or with things that are somehow seen as our fault for happening? With this question the context is important. Certainly there are things that happen that are due to our mishandeling. But there are also situations that no matter what we do things go haywire. Both situations can be a cause of shame to need help in righting what went wrong.
I want to make clear that even though something went wrong due to our own decisions or actions it doesn’t mean that we are undeserving of help in any kind of way.
1.2 Ashamed to ask for help
Even though there is plenty of help available it still takes effort on our part to actually get it. We need to ask for it. Sometimes even when it is already being offered as the specific help we need is not being offered. All of this can lead to one feeling ashamed. Perhaps even more ashamed in the situation of asking for a different kind of help when already being offered help.
One reason I have heard of people who are afraid of asking for help is that they don’t want to seem needy or even greedy. People are busy, they have their own lives, they might not have the time to help. Then they will say yes just to get you asking done and over with, which in turn makes the person asking feel terrible and validated in their thoughts to not ask for help. Ever walked through that house of reasons?
Of course there is the age old reason of not wanting people to know that you need help. A surefire way of them knowing you need help is when you ask. There are many drivers of not asking for help because you don’t want the other party to know you need it. It could be their response to you asking, you feeling like you’re not independent or one that is often cited; not feeling seen.
Not feeling seen is a reference to thinking that the people who love and care about you should see that you are struggling and/or in need of any kind of help. There’s another part of this that thinks offering help, really of any kind, should be a normal thing regardless of thinking or knowing that someone is struggling. It is seen as a normal part of a being in any kind of interpersonal relationship, platonic or romantic. Both of these ways of thinking make asking redundant but also impact the ability to receive help.
2. Feeling guilty for needing help
There are people who feel guilty for asking for or needing help. Any kind of help really. Guilty for taking other’s their time, for using the resources provided, for not being able to do it themselves.
The first reason of how people respond can really work on people feeling guilty. An example could be one that was mentioned above. If you ask for help and it is met with a response of “I don’t have time for this” or “ why can’t you do it yourself?” it then makes sense that you feel guilty for asking for their help.
Another reason behind this guilt could be other people need the help more and you are taking their space. Who would’ve ever thought that you would need help, right?
Not yet having hit rock-bottom could be a justification used to keep the guilt stemming from that alive and thriving. The guilt makes you want to wait until there really is no other way out to ask for help. Until you definitely hit rock-bottom and you know for sure that you’ve hit rock-bottom as there are many more criteria to determine whether you have, right?
3. Not asking for help out of defeat
This is one I don’t see talked about publicly enough but do hear about it in practice (by in practice I mean in therapy, as I am a psychologist, next to being a life coach).
There are people not asking for help out of defeat. Now this is not the word used by the people this is happening to but it is exactly what is happening. Terminology used by them is more along the lines of:
“What can they do?”
“How are they possibly going to help?”
“I’ve already tried X, Y, Z, so why would your new proposed thing work?!”
This is defeat. Not asking or accepting any help purely because all the things you tried in the past have not resulted in a desired change. The defeat keeps them from asking for or accepting help as there is no expectation of any change, so why say yes?
I personally call this being jaded; completely run down by having tried so much and yet nothing or little has actually worked.
4. Acceptance of the situation
Acceptance of the situation has some flair of defeat to it but is not quite the same.
When you’ve accepted the situation for what it is you have, in most cases, also accepted that nothing is going to change. At least if you have come to full acceptance. Before I continue I do have to mention that acceptance has several stages so depending on which stage someone is the following might not line up completely.
Someone who has accepted the situation for what it is, is also naturally not going to be very open to accepting any kind of help. The impact of accepting help could be that something would change which is a hope they have long let go off. Letting go of this hope is a necessary step in acceptance.
It is highly likely that accepting help for the situation can make you feel as if you are going backwards. Now depending on each person this can be quite a painful process. Basically the more hope needed to be let go of the more painful this could potentially be.
5. As a trauma response
“Not accepting help or ever asking for it is a trauma response.”
I’m sure many have seen this sentence floating around social media. I know I have and every time I do it pains me a little (a lot) as it is not correct.
Can an unwillingness to ask for or accept any kind of help be in response to trauma? Yes, definitely. When you have learned that asking for or accepting help leads to you being in a situation that is characterized as painful to you then yes indeed not asking or accepting can be in response to prior trauma.
However this is not the case for any and everyone. How people respond to trauma is heavily based on the way they perceive it and the way they later process it. A sentence to remember when judging things that appear to be traumatic is; Two people can have the exact same experience and have two completely different ways of retelling the story. This makes that not every seemingly horrible experience becomes a trauma experience.
Also the above four aspects give further proof that not asking for or accepting help can have other root causes that aren’t necessarily traumatic, some of them are deeply rooted in our cultural upbringing for example. By saying it’s all due to a traumatic experience a lot gets negated that desperately needs addressing.
An example of something that desperately needs addressing is something that has already been brought up a few paragraphs ago which is our need and encouraged independence. It’s only logical for the wires to get crossed when on the one side you have a fundamental hero’s journey of independence and “I figured it all out on my own” being applauded and on the other side hearing “Almighty, why didn’t you ask for help? How did you let it get this far?!🤦🏽”. We’re all getting a yes on sides that point in the opposite direction.
Not accepting or asking for help is not the hero’s journey our society has labeled it to be.
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