How to Ask For Help (And Why You Need To) 

As women, we want it all – we want to manage and be in control of our work, social, and home lives, all while keeping everyone else happy, and we often would rather drown in our responsibilities than put out a call for support. One of the hardest parts about womanhood is the overwhelming feeling that we need to do everything ourselves in order to do it right. But the truth is, no matter your background, age, career, or stage of life, we just can’t do it all on our own without risking our mental and emotional wellness. And while many of us are programmed to believe that reaching out for help is a sign of weakness and inability to handle things on our own, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Asking for help is a great way to practice being authentic and vulnerable, which in turn allows us to have empathy for others. And when we ask for help, we give others the opportunity for the joy and satisfaction that comes from helping. So why don’t women ask for help when we need it, and why do we feed into the myth of “having it all”? 


Why Don’t Women Often Ask for Help?


Women everywhere are failing to ask for help – but why? We are smart enough to know when we need support, we are vocal enough to speak our minds, and we usually never fail to assist when someone else is in need. So why do we often fail at putting these three traits together and asking for help ourselves? 


To state the obvious, it is deeply ingrained in our culture that women are caregivers, and that as caregivers, it is our job to help others, not to ask for help ourselves. However, another answer to this question may stem from the roles that women are assigned (either by ourselves or others) to play. Whether you are assigned the role as the Independent Woman, the Ambitious Woman, the Nurturing Woman, or the Thoughtful Woman, asking for help may seem unnecessary within these confines. 


How to Ask For Help


There are many negative emotions that can be associated with asking for help, whether that be the fear of seeming incompetent, concern about being rejected (which can be embarrassing and painful), or concern about inconveniencing others. Some research from Stanford University even suggests that as early as age seven, children begin to connect asking for help with looking incompetent in front of others [1], and women tend to carry this belief into their adult lives. But no matter the fear or insecurity behind the concept of asking for help, it is crucial for women to have the courage and ability to stand up and ask for support when we need it. Women face unique challenges when it comes to reaching out for support, but we’ve laid out some tips for asking for help, even when it feels hard. 


Recognize when help is needed 


The first step in asking for help is recognizing when you need it! To do this, we must first understand the signs of mental and emotional wellness within ourselves. This helps us to more easily recognize when we’re starting to pull away from that baseline. If you’re finding yourself struggling to work, parent, or keep up at home, or if you find yourself unable to handle stress with your usual coping skills, that may mean that it’s time to reach out for a helping hand.



Seek support from a person you already trust 


 Whether that be a friend, family member, or mentor, when you reach out to someone you already trust, those fears of rejection or concern about being a burden may not feel as scary. 



Reframe the request as a sign of strength 


Instead of viewing the need for help or support as a sign of weakness, think of it as a sign of strength. Asking for help shows signs of strength, confidence, and resourcefulness, and it takes guts – if asking for help was easy, we wouldn’t be writing this article! 


Be clear and specific 


When asking for help, be clear and specific about what you need. For example, if you vaguely tell your mother in law that you need help with the kids this week, that isn’t giving her much opportunity to offer any real assistance. Instead, be specific about what you need: “I’ve been swamped at work recently, and I could really use help with the kids on Thursday. Is there any way that you could pick up the youngest from soccer practice at 5pm?” Being specific in your request will help the other person better understand your situation, and avoid any confusion. 



Express gratitude 


This one is a no-brainer, but expressing your gratitude and appreciation when someone offers or agrees to help you is important. Express gratitude to the person who helped you directly, which will make them feel valued as a trusted person in your life and may encourage them to offer their support in the future, but also as a daily practice. Practicing expressing gratitude for the support and people in your life can help you feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, build stronger relationships, and even improve your health. [2] 


Accept help graciously



It can be really uncomfortable to accept help when it’s offered to us, but if someone offers to help, accept their assistance graciously. Don’t make people second guess their support by apologizing for bothering them or expressing guilt toward accepting their assistance, and avoid downplaying their efforts or refusing their help outright. Allow yourself to be vulnerable, and remember that asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness!



Acknowledge that others can make us better 


Acknowledging that others can help us better people is an important part of personal growth and development. Many of us believe that we should know how to do everything, but being open-minded and receptive to learning from others can open a world of knowledge, ideas and inspiration that you may have never encountered otherwise. 



As women, we often feel like we need to “have it all” – the perfect home life, career, goals, routines – but the only way to actually “have it all” is by accepting that you cannot do it all (at least by yourself!), realizing that asking for help is courageous and a sign of strength, and building a support system that allows you to have as much of it – whatever that may be for you-  as possible! If we become better at asking for help when we need it, the more help we will receive – in turn, we can begin to create an environment where we receive and give support in an abundant way, which the world could definitely use more of right now! So we’ll leave you with this challenge: to start asking for help when you need it, confidently and without shame. 


If you want to learn more about supporting and putting yourself first, check out our blog on “healthy selfishness” here