This year, a chief focus is pushing myself to ask for more help than I’m comfortable with. Thanks to being an over-responsible child who then became an over-responsible adult, I am well versed in “being strong”. My default setting is doing things myself, which can lead to burnout, overwhelm or resentment, if I’m not mindful.

While I’m far better than I’ve ever been in terms of cutting back on the people-pleasing habits driving my over-responsibility and I ask for more help than I ever have, I noticed something:

I’ve associated asking for help as something you do when you’re struggling or can’t do something on your own.

There are a couple of issues with this thinking, though. As a recovering people pleaser, perfectionist and overthinker, my over-responsibility distorted my signals for “struggling” and what I think I can and should do on my own. There’s also this implication that your default should be to do it yourself unless it gets too hard.

Asking for help is a form of vulnerability. It’s part of letting people into our humanness.

When we never or rarely ask for help, we give off the impression that we’re Teflon-coated. And we exacerabate this impression when we will near break our back to help and support others. Our unwillingness to ask for help or even just admit that we struggle or could do with some support implies that they can have problems or emotional support, but not us. It can inadvertently create the impression that we have it all “together” while others don’t.

Emotional, mental, physical and spiritual support are part of day to day living, not the extreme end of living.

Given that we are often super aware of other people’s needs, expectations, desires, feelings and opinions, or we at least try to be, and they’re not “struggling” all the time, what makes us the exception? Yeah, sure, we can do a lot of things on our own but that doesn’t mean that we should or have to.

Why exclude ourselves from what we willingly give to others?

If we only ask for help or admit that we are human when our back’s against the wall or it’s the 999/911 moment in our life, we are missing out on so much.

We’re missing out on the joy of connection and being authentically human. Holding out on asking for help until we’re in dire straits is also a lot of pressure.

It’s like when people avoid having boundaries until their snap moment. Well, of course you’re going to lose your shit with people if the only time you speak up is after you’ve stockpiled a load of grievances or are at breaking point! Of course it feels like the most terrifying thing to speak up on an issue because it’s something that’s done rarely or occasionally instead of as part of the fabric of life.

Similarly, if the only time we allow people to see past the veneer of perfection and pleasing is when we’re already well into falling apart, asking for help, and the vulnerability that accompanies it, feels like a lot.

Yes, asking for help can mean letting people in on our struggles. But… how about we let people into our world at a much earlier point so that people have the opportunity to know what’s going on or offer their input or support? How about we just let people be there in our life?

Try small things. Sure, we could do something, but could someone else? How about if, instead of operating from our default setting of ‘Do it all myself’, we ask people to do things just because?

And the funny thing is, if we show more of our humanness, our loved ones have a much better idea of when we need their help!

The Joy of Saying No: A Simple Plan to Stop People Pleasing, Reclaim Boundaries, and Say Yes to the Life You Want (Harper Horizon/HarperCollins) is out now and available in bookshops on and offline. Listen to the first chapter.
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