How To Ask For Help Without Feeling Inadequate

We’ve all been there. You need help but you’re afraid to ask for it. Why? Asking for help means admitting to yourself, and others, that you’re unable to deal with a situation on your own.

For this reason, asking for help can stir up feelings of personal inadequacy.

I know this feeling only too well. As an over-achiever, being successful in my career (and life in general) is of the upmost importance. A few years ago, the thought of asking for help filled me with dread. “What will people think of me?” “I won’t feel fulfilled if I don’t do it all on my own”, I told myself.

I often ask for help nowadays. I don’t worry as much about what others think of me, and I still lead a very fulfilling life. So what’s changed?

To answer this, let’s consider the 3 constituents of worry:

  • feelings of being inadequately prepared.
  • a lack of confidence in your own judgement, and
  • insecurities about your ability to cope (Dash, Meeten, and Davey, 2013).

Asking yourself “What if…?” is a classic sign that you’re a worrier (Davey and Meetan, 2016). The first step to asking for help without feeling inadequate is to STOP wondering what might happen after you ask for help. How can you possibly know that people will judge you if you admit you’re struggling? Wait until it actually happens, THEN you can think about how to handle it. Catastrophizing is rarely helpful.

To catastrophize is to view or present a situation as considerably worse than it actually is.

Research shows that people with low self-esteem catastrophize more than those who are comfortable in their own skin. This means that the more you feel inadequate generally, the more inadequate you feel when asking for help (Davey and Levy, 1998).

For example, if you believe that you’re not very good at solving problems on your own, you’re much more likely to avoid asking for help (Davey, 1994). Why? Because you worry that other people will criticize your problem-solving skills.

It’s this anxiety that stops you from seeking the help that you need.
Feeling anxious can also reduce your ability to make good judgements and cope in challenging situations, lowering your self-esteem even more! (Blankstein, Flett, and Watson, 1992; Davey, 1994)

How do you stop this vicious cycle of anxiety-fueled avoidance?

The next step to asking for help without feeling inadequate is to work on increasing your self-esteem. If you feel comfortable in your own skin, you won’t catastrophize as much, and asking for help will become much easier.

For instance, I recently asked Laura-Jean Bernhardson for help with managing On Your Plate Inc. Instead of criticizing myself for being unable to cope in my business, I reminded myself that we all have different strengths. I’m not an expert in business and Laura-Jean is. It made sense for me to ask her for help.

By rationalizing the situation and recognizing that noone has strengths in EVERY area of life, you can ask for help without feeling inadequate.


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