The Vulnerability of Asking for Help and Why So Many Struggle With It

Some feel ashamed of themselves for being unable to ask for help, so they expect their partner to anticipate their needs, blaming them when they don’t. It’s easier to shame someone else than feel ashamed for being inadequate, whether for an inability to request aid or for even needing it in the first place.

And anger frequently stems from redirected shame, and from the fear of feeling it.

Many of my clients struggle with asking for help. And just as many feel entitled to it. We expect the world to care for our needs as it distracts us from acknowledging our limits. My female clients tend to become frustrated with their spouses for not knowing what they need, as, perhaps, their fathers would. To them, asking for help is akin to being thrown into the depths of a wilderness. They ask, “Why do I have to?” But, underneath that, they’re really saying, “Why should I have to risk rejection?” And, ultimately, “Why do I have to fear it so much?” Seeing their partner as a threat, who “makes” them feel scared, they play the game of emotional hot potato, gifting their own shame to them. In this respect, the shame transforms, and no longer smothers its progenitor.

And, on the other end, many of my male clients possess a deep disdain for needing help. To them, shame is intertwined with the belief that help is solely for the weak. Their masculinity is wrapped up with being “the go-getter” or the one who can solve his own problems. And for them, shame is kept at bay by their partners anticipating their needs. In this respect, they need not acknowledge their limits, or their inability to achieve everything. When your partner is helping you, it’s easy for you to tell yourself that you don’t really need them to, but is harder when they aren’t. Fundamentally, admitting need is akin to defeat. They ask, “What does it say about me if I’m dependent?”

And, to some extent, most of us are terrified of needing others.

We, instead, try to control and coerce them. We manipulate scenarios to get our needs met while convincing ourselves that we don’t need people. We hide from ourselves. So many seek treatment not to become more comfortable with being vulnerable but to perfect themselves, to rid themselves of all of their limits. And, I find myself feeling ashamed of how much I need people, too. But, I also know that self-love isn’t cultivated in a vacuum, if it can be at all. It stems from the people we love accepting, and maybe even loving, our flaws – at the least, from their empathy.

And one can argue that therapy works because judgment and shame are replaced with empathy and feedback. It can be powerful for someone whom you respect to tell you that while your decision makes sense, here’s why you should stop. The focus goes from “I’m a bad person” to “I made a bad choice in this particulate context,” knowing that your actions were meant to protect you from a threat whose moment has passed. (Phobias are more rational than people think, because they protect your present self from similar dangers, even if they’re less prevalent in the present.) So, when people want to know about accepting their flaws, you know, how to actually do it, I point to their ability to accept those of others. And, often, they’ll say, “Well, his/her flaws don’t disqualify her.” And I may say, “Neither do yours.” Therefore, we need a strong community of people who will like us for who we are. Better yet, we ought to get better acquainted with and learn to accept our ubiquitous needs, to ask for and accept help. As hard as this is to admit, the only reason I know I’m lovable is because someone whom I love thinks so as well.

Yet, all of this doesn’t mean that you’re supposed to tolerate everyone’s imperfections, nor does it mean that everyone should tolerate yours (that’s just narcissism), but it does mean that some will tolerate them; they will perceive them as quirks while others will see them as flaws. Some will disqualify you for them, but others won’t. But because perfectionism is linked with black and white thinking, the underlying belief is: Because I’m imperfect (or weird), no one can love me. If that’s true, then everyone is unlovable, not only you.


  1. Reblogged this on penwithlit and commented:
    Interesting stuff and the reality is of course, as the song goes “people need people”. It seems as well that advanced capitalism- has become especially punitive to basic human needs like shelter rest and protection.

    Liked by 1 person

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