Why is it so hard to ask for help?

Today’s blog post is inspired by a snippet of a longer conversation with some of my library lady friends. And it is one that I’ve had over and over with friends. It went something like this, “Oh yeah, I have a hard time asking for help.” “Me too,” several of them echoed. Here’s the thing for me. I have the *hardest* time asking for help in my personal life stuff and I know it’s something I need to work on. Like, it’s really a relationship flaw that I promise I’m trying to get better at.

When I sat to think about if I do this at work, my internal reaction was a little mixed. Yes, I can point to times when I should have asked others for help, but I can also recall, in recent memory, times when I have delegated even the coolest of projects (delegation, for me, counts as asking for help.) But, I definitely don’t do it enough, especially when I am feeling lost in a topic or a conversation or maybe a broader campus project.

So, are we just as hesitant to ask for help at work? Related, I feel like this is something that women really suffer from (I mean, from talking to my peer group, it seems that way?).

I have a few theories about why it can be so hard to ask for help. First, I believe that most of us are wired to prove that we can do whatever it is we’re trying to do. We believe if we’ve been given the job or the task that we should be able to complete it. Right? I mean, otherwise we are a failure.

Who wants to go to their boss and say they need help?

We are still all a bunch of A students, right? We’re just working in libraries now.

I also think we often avoid asking for help at work because we don’t want to look like the jerk that’s pawning off their work on our peers and friends. Like, if I can’t get my grading done on time, I can’t ask my co-teacher. She did her part on time. But, if I’m drowning in work and I’m exhausted, I’m not going to really be that hard with the grading anyway, so why don’t I ask for some help?

The worst thing to do when you need help? Just avoid finishing the project/work. Not that I know anything about that.

What about my neurotic thoughts about asking for help leading to the end of my career. Why, hello there Imposter Syndrome, my old friend. If I need help, clearly I’m not capable of doing my job. Does that feel familiar?

How do we break this cycle? What are the things that you, right now, need help with, but you’re afraid to ask?

I kind of think that my failure to ask for help when I need it is also a relationship flaw with my job and my colleagues. Huh. Maybe I should work on that.

I’m pledging, this week, to ask for help on three things that I’ve been AVOIDING because I need help completing them. (Avoidance is not the answer, my friends.) Join me?


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