Asking for help can be hard for some of us and I’ve come to realise over the years that it’s because we don’t always know why we need the help or what kind of help it is that we need.
I was moved up a year at school, a bright and able student, I was often top of my classes. And yet the further I got through school, the harder I found Mathematics. I’d often overcomplicate things, overthink things and see numbers in a different way. If I asked for help from the teacher or my peers I’d end up feeling really stupid, I still couldn’t grasp what they were trying to tell me. I stopped asking for help and struggled in silence. And then I got a new teacher and it all just clicked. Not enough to make me enjoy it, but enough to help me understand it and enough to help me achieve a pass. I wasn’t stupid, I just needed a different perspective to help me see things differently so that I could understand it.
I didn’t know that a different person could help me, and because of that, I’d never thought to ask. I stayed stuck for a long time.
When I started in the corporate world, I was always told that doors were open if ever I needed anything and with some of my awesome managers, I was offered help at times when it was needed, even when I didn’t know what it was that I needed help with. They saw it, and it was offered. I progressed, I developed, and my confidence soared.
In my early career, I struggled with some of the relationships with my peers. Often told that I needed to slow down because I was making them look bad. I was stabbed in the back by three peers on numerous occasions and despite asking for help in how to handle and improve these relationships, the advice and help weren’t forthcoming. My head went back to my Maths classes, nobody could help and I couldn’t articulate any more clearly than I already was doing what the issues were. And I found myself yet again, struggling on in silence, not asking for help, just doing the best that I could.
After the birth of my twin sons, two health visitors visited the house for six weeks, it’s common for multiple births I was told, and every week, they would turn up at a different time, undress the boys, weigh them and ask them if there was anything in the house that needed sorted; bottles, washing up, washing – it was already done. It wasn’t until years later when I was diagnosed with PND that I realised that the help I needed during those six weeks, wasn’t housework. I’d needed reassurance, to be asked how I felt, to be asked how I was coping, to be listened to and heard. But I couldn’t ask for it because I didn’t know I needed it. And I didn’t take the help they were offering because it wasn’t needed, it was all done.
Throughout my career and during my consultancy days, leaders and managers would often approach me with a problem and ask for help in solving it. Sometimes the problem they had identified wasn’t the real problem that needed to be solved and sometimes they had already identified the right solution. What they wanted was reassurance that they were on the right track and moving in the right direction, they wanted a permission slip to move forward.
Often when clients come to me for coaching, they have felt stuck for a while and they have spent a lot of time and effort in identifying the issue. So in our discovery calls, they’ll often say things like “I feel x, and I know I need to do y, and this is what I want help with”. And as we start talking, x may be a part of the problem, but it’s rarely THE problem. And whilst they move forward, it’s not always in the ways they first envisioned.
But, clients rarely feel comfortable in saying they don’t know what the issue is, or that they just feel stuck, or that they need help but they don’t know why. We’ve been conditioned to identify the problems and ask for that help with that specific thing rather than just holding up our hands, and shouting for help.
If you’ve ever read or watched, Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, or read any of Rebecca Campbell’s work, you’ll be familiar with their moments of crying out for help, asking for signs of what the next right thing to do is. They both break down as their worlds shatter around me, and cry for help, and they both get THE sign of what to do next. And yet, as their story develops, they keep waiting for the next big sign, the next big moment of clarity, and they realise that the answers must come from within them, and so too must the next step, because the answers are not outside of them, but within them.
I’ve had moments where I’ve been waiting for this big A-Ha moment, just like Liz Gilbert’s and Rebecca Campbell’s. I felt lost, frustrated, angry, and confused. And I’ve waited for this big red flashing sign or the arrow directing me to pass go and collect my $200 on the way past, and no signs or arrows appeared before me pointing me in the right direction.
When I look externally for answers, I can find myself lost even more. Bright shiny object syndrome offers me yet another new course, or another qualification, a new book to read, a podcast to listen to, a new coach to work with and I start to procrastinate because all of these objects are great and they all help, but oftentimes, they cause me to deflect from the work I need to be doing on myself, and I find myself in overwhelm. And then, because of the overwhelm from it all, I look for tools and techniques to help me with the overwhelm, when in actual fact, all I need is the focus, a bit of support, and to get my ass moving in the right direction.
Why am I telling you all of this?
Well for starters, I love a permission slip from someone else. It stops me from being accountable to myself and places the blame at someone else’s door when I feel I need it.
The bright shiny objects are often distractions, that keep me small, AND, they often stop me from having to face up to what the real problem is. And the more I avoid the problem, the longer it takes before I actually have to fix it.
And because I’m human just like you. Behind all of the experience and the qualifications, and the knowledge and the skills, sometimes I just don’t want to put the effort in, because it’s hard. And so I avoid it.
BUT, it always catches up with me in the end. And I always get the help now when I need it, even if I’m just asking for help to stop me sinking, or to keep me on track.
Help has become a powerful cry in my life, and I don’t always know why I need it, or what I need. I don’t have to have all the answers before I ask for help, and neither do you.
If it’s hard, ask for help.
If you don’t know what you need, ask for help.
If you feel stuck, ask for help.
If you think you should have it all figured out and you haven’t, ask for help.
If you feel lost, ask for help.
And if you ask for help and it doesn’t arrive, you may need to keep asking until the right person, or answer comes along. Don’t give up!
The next right step, isn’t always what you think it should be. Permission slips don’t fall out of the sky at you to tell you now is the right time. And not everyone in your life at this current time is there to help you in the way you need.
Sometimes we need someone different, a different perspective, a different way to be shown something and some different questions to be asked.
It’s up to you though to ask for help!
Kelly is an Executive Coach to Senior Women in Leadership. She leads and coaches with an open heart and an open mind and challenges the status quo.
To find out more or to book your discovery call, visit her website, www.kellyswingler.com