Why do so many people struggle to accept support?
This is a biggie and one I can certainly relate to myself.
Not when I was younger, then I usually felt like I COULDN’T do anything without someone’s help.
I learned pretty quickly that I would be labelled ‘needy’, or ‘weak’ by other people.
Quick trigger warning, I’m going to very briefly talk about my first real relationship which was emotionally abusive. I won’t give any specifics but I want to talk about it to help you frame the behaviour. (and if you DO resonate, I really hope it shows you that change and healing is so possible!)
I definitely learned that no one was coming to rescue me during that time. I’d been pretty isolated from my friends and relied on him for everything.
In the year it took me to leave him, I learned that I needed to be strong, that no one else was going to take responsibility for me and I had to build up my own confidence. That happened slowly but it absolutely happened.
But while I can see now that relationship taught me independence and that I was way stronger than I ever gave myself credit for…in the end!! For that I’m grateful.
But the issue was I then wore that fierce independence as a badge of honour and sense of identity. It was something I was very proud of.
But it stopped me ever asking anyone for help, with anything, because it would trigger those feelings of helplessness. Of weakness. (notice I say ‘feelings of, not that I was those things!) Of going back to that younger version of me who felt incapable or even a burden.
The desire to feel supported and frustration that you don’t. At the same time causing that very to happen by thoughts like ‘urgh, i’ll just do it myself’ or preempting that someone will let you down so you do the thing anyway and then resent it, even though you actually haven’t given the other person a chance to prove you wrong and actually let them support you. That’s how it would show up for me. It might be different for you.
So it’s something I’ve definitely worked on over the years and was an important behaviour to pick apart, because in many ways it held me back.
This is why awareness is important. The behaviour of not asking for help made total sense to my nervous system, it was the ‘safer’ option because the alternative was being controlled, manipulated and feeling awful about myself on a daily basis and living in a constant state of hypervigilance…and it’s always going to prioritise survival and doesn’t have a moral compass about what’s good or bad, so I don’t judge myself or beat myself up for it one bit.
But that awareness helps me make the changes I want and need to so I can create behaviours that DO serve me now. And to do that, it has to feel ‘safe’ in your body.
When there’s an unconscious programme running around not asking for, or even just accepting support it’s a sure fire route to burnout, things taking longer than they need to and you feeling unsupported…even though that’s of your own making!
It can be like you’re desperate to feel supported…and yet not allowing anyone to support you because you won’t ask…and if they offer, your go to reaction is ‘no i’m fine’.
So if you can relate, let’s unpick it a little shall we?
Think of this from the frame of asking for support. That might be about outsourcing and delegating. It might be about emotional support such as a coach or a community that you’re in. Or NOT joining something because you think you won’t ‘use’ the support available. It might be about being able to express your needs for support to your loved ones. Or it might be all of the above!
There are many reasons we might not ask for or struggle to accept help and it will be different for all of us. So grab your journal and we’ll go through a few common ones and you can find the awareness you need to be able to make a different choice, should you want to.
So here we go…
You see asking for help, or accepting it, as a sign of weakness, it might even conflict with who you think you are at an identity level. If you identify as the strong, independent one it might feel pretty vulnerable and confronting to ask for help.
But also…You worry about what other people may think. How it might ‘look’ if you ask for help. What are you making it mean? And what story are you telling yourself about what THEY might make it mean? (This is a particularly big one if you have access to a community and don’t want to/feel you can’t use support that’s available in there)
You don’t trust people. Or don’t trust people to do things as well as you.
You believe people will let you down so you don’t give them the chance to try.
You’re used to overachieving and feeling no one will do as good a job as you. Again here it might be a concern around what other people think if you were to ask for help.
You’re a people pleaser who struggles to ask for help because you’re always focused on others. Or you may feel like you’re inconveniencing someone else.
It might make you feel like you’ve ‘failed’ in some way.
You might have seen the same behaviour from your primary caregivers and you just learned that you don’t ask for or accept help. You will have assigned meaning to it then. What might be that story?
So what might it be for you?
Where does the behaviour make sense?
What could change for you if you accepted help and support?
Would you be able to outsource more? Have a team? Therefore freeing up more of your time. Taking the pressure off.
The bottom line is. It’s a learned behaviour. It made sense for your nervous system and brain to wire itself that way based on your unique set of experiences. But good old neuroplasticity means it can be Re-wired. But you have to start with the awareness piece of the puzzle first so you can bring it into the conscious mind and OUT of unconscious autopilot.
Fran Excell, Success Mindset Mentor at www.franexcell.com – Helping Business Owners Overcome Stress & Self Sabotage so they can get back their time and feel more in control.
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