Why Women Don’t Ask For Help

An honest look at how we’re hurting ourselves and how we can do better.
Beth Fitzgerland, Author of The Wake-Up Call
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Why don’t we ask for help?

“Why don’t we ask for help” is a great question because it implies that we can ask for help, but we choose not to do so. I believe it’s important to clarify the “can” but  “don’t” distinction before we start. Asking for help has been, and always will be, an option for us. I hope, after reading this article, all women will be empowered to use their voice to ask for help.

 There are many reasons why women don’t ask for help, but I’d like to focus on what I believe are the top 3:

  1. It’s a sign of weakness
  2. Pride
  3. Low self-esteem

 

In 2021, it’s likely most of us were raised to be ambitious and independent women. We were taught to be strong, to take care of ourselves, and to depend on no one. Asking for help was a sign of weakness, right?  Well, like any all or nothing ultimatum, it’s flawed. It could be simply the context, but maybe it’s actually the semantics. What if, instead of asking for help, we were told to delegate some of our tasks instead? Would we still feel that delegating was a sign of weakness?  Delegating tends to have a very  powerful connotation.  Delegating and asking for help aren’t always completely synonymous, but perhaps thinking in those terms will help us find our voice.

Pride, much like It’s a sign of weakness, falls under the, “I want to be in control at all times” category, which is neither healthy nor realistic. We don’t want to be at the mercy of anyone else and we fear feeling helpless and vulnerable. Because we value our self-respect, pride jumps in and gets in the way of us asking for help. We want to be one step ahead of everyone else and make sure that from the outside looking in, our life seems perfect. And when it’s not perfect, pride whispers in our ear, “Suck it up. Get yourself together!” And we carry on, but at what cost? We’re human, for goodness sake, but our pride believes otherwise. Our pride is convinced we are superhuman and expects us to act as such. That thought process is unrealistic and we are the ones that  pay a very costly price.

 Finally, low self-esteem is when we undervalue and neglect our own needs because we believe our needs aren’t as important as the needs of others. We believe we are being altruistic and unselfish by putting ourselves last, but the truth is that we are teaching the people around us how to treat us. We are teaching them to put us last—that’s where we see ourselves so that is where others will see us as well. And, as if that wasn’t bad enough, if we have children, we are ultimately teaching them to put themselves last as well. We are role models and the behavior we model will, in all likelihood, manifest in our children now or in the future.

 

How can we ask for help- at home?

Asking our partners, our spouses, and even our children should be the easiest place for us to ask for help, yet it rarely is.  We usually don’t ask for help because it will take too long, it won’t get done “right,” or we will get sufficient push-back that may or may not result in an argument. So we say something like, “It’s easier to just do it myself!” How many times have you said that to yourself? Right! Me too! This mindset paves the way for us to dig a deeper and deeper hole for ourselves as time goes on. The only way for things to change is if we change. 

Since we are no longer in the 1950’s, it’s fair to say that in two-income households, the tasks should be shared. If they aren’t shared, then a conversation about sharing tasks should be scheduled. I often ask myself, “Am I the only person qualified for this task?” Rarely is the answer, “Yes.” 

I remember many years ago when my children were young, I went to a neighbors house for an impromptu ladies night. One of my friends asked, “Is Doug babysitting the kids?” I remember being taken aback and replying, “No, he’s their dad! Dads don’t babysit.” Watching the children is one of many tasks that is both a mom and a dad job.

“If you can’t delegate at home then you’ll never delegate at work.”

One way to begin to get comfortable with asking for help is to have an open and honest conversation with your partner. Here are a few things you should not bring to this conversation: your tone, your attitude, your resentment, your sassy-pants, your anger, your martyr face, your bitterness, or your hairy eyeball. Our partners do not see it like we do, so this is our opportunity to share our truth and our perspective from an honest and vulnerable place. A great way to begin is simply to ask, “Can you help me out?” We want this conversation to be fruitful, so treat it like an important business meeting that falls under the heading of difficult conversations. Do your homework. Know exactly what you want in advance of this meeting. Know what your message is as well as your goal. Treat your counterparty with respect. Make sure you are a good listener. Express appreciation. Make a point to schedule regular check-ins, like you would in business, so you can follow up on the progress everyone has agreed to make.

Being able to ask for help at home is how we prepare for being successful at work. If we can’t ask for help at home, how will we ever ask for higher salaries or negotiate for what we truly want at work?

 

How do we ask for help at work without weakening our positions? 

Asking for help at work is a little bit like walking a tightrope; it’s a much more delicate endeavor. Before we ask for help at work, I believe it’s wise to do a little exploring first and ask ourselves why we need help. We want to be careful not to weaken our position or our reputation. Here are the 5 questions worth asking ourselves:

  1. Am I asking for help because I am lost or confused?  ASK
  2. Am I asking for help because there is too much on my plate? MAYBE
    • Is the, “too much,” from work? ASK
    • Is the, “too much,” tied to home? MAYBE NOT
  3. Do I need insight or additional information/expertise? ASK
  4. Did I make a mistake? ASK
  5. Am I working until midnight every night? That’s inefficient. ASK
 

Here is one caveat about asking for help at work, you must come prepared. Asking for help is not tossing the problem onto someone else’s lap. Everyone loves to lend a helping hand, but no one loves to clean up other people’s messes. Coming prepared shows your colleague that you took the time to think this through and you value their time as well as their expertise.

“You are already at, “No.”” If we don’t ask for help, then we’re guaranteed to not get it. So, let’s ask.


Empowering women

I have one quote I live my life by and it is this: “You are already at, “No.”” If we don’t ask for help, then we’re guaranteed to not get it. So, let’s ask. The worst that can happen is that they say, “No.” People are not mind readers, they do not know what we want or what we need. We need to dig deep inside ourselves and find that voice that is brave enough to ask for what we want and need. And here’s the best part, people like to help! It makes them feel useful, empowered, happy and oftentimes, proud. Why would we want to deny them that?

Beth Fitzgerald is a graduate of Rutgers University with a double major in Economics and English. She started her career on Wall Street working for a small boutique hedge fund, then at Prudential in the Portfolio Management Department for the General Account, and finally at The OppenheimerFunds in The World Trade Center where she managed the internal sales force.  She left Wall Street to raise her 4 children. Seven years ago she reentered the workforce, opening her own executive coaching practice and serving both individual, as well as corporate, clients. Most recently, she published her first book -- The Wake Up Call – Daily Eye-Opening Motivation to Live Your Best Life. In addition to being a published author, she is a certified life coach, certified John Maxwell Coach, Master EFT Practitioner, Positive EFT Practitioner, member of the Forbes Coaching Council, speaker, and trainer.

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