Help yourself by overcoming your resistance to assistance

Few people can go at it alone without help. Dr. Goulston shares his advice for getting over your neurosis and reaching out to those who care.
Photo of Dr. Mark Goulston.
Mark Goulston, M.D.

You’ll agree that waiting for people to give you help is going to be a long wait.

Furthermore, if you expect people to read your mind, anticipate your needs and fulfill them without asking, that’s going to be an even longer wait.

It’s not a matter that other people are selfish; it’s that nearly all people are self-absorbed. They are focused on their own lives, getting ahead and, in most cases, just plain surviving.

That translates into: Unless you ask, you shall (not) receive.

If none of the above surprises you and you’re still hesitant to ask for what you need, or even, for what you deserve. Why?

To answer that question, I decided to experiment with a study group where N = 1. That N = me.

I have a great deal of trouble of asking for help. I thought I’d dig into my psyche to explore why I have such a difficult time in the hopes that, if you have similar trouble, you will see yourself in me. I hope to figure my way out of this and help you along the way.

Why I don’t ask for help:

  • I am super reluctant to burdening anyone else: As a medical doctor, I am not alone in not wanting to bother anyone else with my concerns. My medical training ingrained in me – to a fault – to serve others but not ask others to serve me.
  • It’s fun to play the “I don’t need anyone” grandiosity game: I tell myself, “Okay, Mark, let’s face it, it’s not just that you don’t want to burden others. You get off on the feeling you’re above needing others which makes you feel powerful.” My inner co-pilot says, “Lose it! Unless you ask for help, you’re going to get very little done and be able to help very few people.”
  • More on the grandiosity game: One of the reasons doctors like myself play the grandiosity game is because one of the things we can’t stand more than anything is feeling helpless. Feeling grandiose is a way to stay as far away from that as possible whereas asking for help cuts very close to it.
  • The Martyr Complex: Closely related to the grandiosity gambit is wanting others to look at “poor Mark” and think, “Oh, what a great guy! Look at all he does for everyone else and doesn’t ask for anything in return! That’s so unfair of the world.”Time for another reality check. “You’re a tad manipulative, trying to guilt-trip others into either feeling how wonderful you are, feeling sorry for you or also feeling how unfair the world is treating you for everything you’re doing for it. Lose that too, Mark!”
  • Not wanting to get a “No” for an answer: Another reason you don’t ask for help, Mark, is that as much as you like to think and want everyone else to think you’re a good sport, you aren’t. And you don’t like getting “No” for an answer.
  • Stay clear of the rage within: The deepest reason for not asking for help, Mark, is that if you asked for help — especially to someone you have given your heart and soul to — and they said, “No,” it might unleash a deep-seated rage against them for daring to do that.

There you have it: Six reasons I don’t ask for help, and I’m guessing many of you who came to read this blog can identify with some of what I have said.

Now what?

It’s very simple. Start by deleting all the unnecessary “brain damage.” Then follow these simple steps to take the worry out of asking for help:

  • Get to the point. What outcome are you trying to achieve in your work and also your personal life?
  • Ask why are you selecting those outcomes. Are they important to you? Do they honestly matter to you and do you care enough about achieving them?
  • Discover what is and isn’t under your control. After you’ve selected and committed to achieving those outcomes, find out what you can do to obtain those outcomes without involving anyone else.
  • Determine what additional help will you need. When you come up with the things you will need to achieve those outcomes that are outside of your abilities, seek out who or what you need and reach out for help.
  • Have an offer to offer in return. When you have identified who will be the best people to ask for help, think of what’s important to them. It can be an outcome they are trying to achieve.Or, you could ask them what that is – and then say simply, “I’d like your help with ________, but I don’t want it unless I can offer you something in return. And what I came up with is _________. If you can help me and what I suggested doing in return is not the best thing I can do for you, what might be something better I could do?”

There you have that.

Final thoughts

Realize that you can’t get much done in life on your own. Take the neurosis out of whether you should ask for help or not. For crying out loud, to achieve those outcomes that are important to you, you will have to ask for help!

When you ask, view it as requesting a favor from someone. They may just freely give when you ask. Be direct and proactive in saying that you want to reciprocate with a favor of your own and that you need their help in figuring out what that might be.

I hope the above helps you.

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Dr. Mark Goulston is an award-winning business psychiatrist, a consultant for Fortune 500 companies and the best-selling author of seven books. His latest, Talking to Crazy: How to Deal with Irrational and Irresponsible People in your Life can be found on Amazon. Catch up on Dr. Goulston’s previous articles here.

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