Have you ever got to the point of total overwhelm and exhaustion… not because you didn’t have the support around you, but because you just didn’t know how to ask for help?
I had one particularly memorable meltdown after spending the day with a new team member. Ironically, this amazing woman was someone I’d hired to take the pressure off me!
But I’d probably left it a little late to start to delegate… and by the end of a full day of training and induction, I was experiencing that “frog in boiling water” thing. You know – where you don’t realize how much the stress is building up because it increases little by little, incrementally, until you’re at breaking point.
Once I’d calmed down and looked back at all the triggers that had finally got on top of me, I realized that I’d been doing a whole lot of supporting of the others all around me, and not getting the support I needed. And I had only myself to blame.
I had a whole crew of super competent people ready to help me. But I’d fallen into the habit of thinking that I didn’t want to bother my incredibly supportive – but also incredibly busy – team with things. So I ended up doing more and more, and eventually something had to give – and that something was me.
Maybe you can relate. You might also be someone who finds it really, really hard to ask for help – even when there are plenty of people who’d be happy to give you a boost when you need it.
Why it’s hard to ask for help
Strong, independent women often share a huge fear – that of being “needy”. After all, we make things happen for ourselves.
Even if you’re not a business owner you probably do have a team, by which I simply mean people who are willing to help you out: it could be an assistant, a childminder, or even just someone who gives you a hand with the ironing once a week. It might be your best friend, your partner or your mum.
But actually asking for that help brings us into conflict with the ‘superwoman’ part of us that sees receiving help as a sign of weakness.
There’s a vulnerability that comes with asking for help that seems deep-wired into our psychology, and that can stop us from reaching out to let other people know what we need.
Perhaps you resist delegating because, deep down, you don’t trust other people to do as good a job as you do.
Or you think it’ll take just as long to teach someone else to do it… so even relatively unimportant jobs linger on your ever-growing list of things to do.
Whatever your reasons for going it alone, the bottom line is all of us have a finite amount of time. Asking for help is essential if you’re going to make the difference you want to – and avoid burnout.
Help is closer than you think
Most successful women know we need to get help. “I know I need a new PA” we tell our partners for the fourteenth time. “I should ask Helen to help me update my resume…” we muse over after work drinks.
And yet, our fear of being seen as needy and our discomfort with receiving help gets in our way. Plus, what if someone says no? In fact, you’re actually much more likely to receive the help you want than you think.
One study by Cornell University found that we underestimate the likelihood of people helping us by a whopping 48% – in other words, people are almost twice as likely to help you than you imagine.
So, deep down you’re pretty sure you need support, and you’re much more likely to get it than you imagine when you do ask. How can you get over the hump and access the help you need?
The PowerTypes answer
Here at One of many we use 5 Womens PowerTypes™ to guide us to our most powerful form of leadership. These powerful models of feminine power each have specific strengths we can draw on when we need to – and it’s the PowerType of Queen we connect to when we want to practice the art of receiving.
Think about Queen Elizabeth, receiving a brave explorer who brought her a treasure from a far off land. Did she tell him “Oh no, you shouldn’t have bothered… I couldn’t possibly accept that?”
No. She receives his gift graciously. Fully in her power, she thanks him for the trouble he has gone to – and he receives that thanks as his reward. A cycle is created, where both parties benefit.
The act of receiving help graciously is, also, a gift.
When we don’t know how to receive help gracefully, our discomfort can sabotage the arrangement we’ve made. We find some way to unravel it: we don’t say thank you to our friend for the favour they’ve done and they get upset… we hire a PA and after 3 months we stop wanting to bother them. The work piles up, and you might even doubt their competence, when in reality what’s happened is your inner superwoman has kicked in.
(Unlike the Queen, Superwoman hates asking for help, which means she’s terrible at receiving.)
If you’ve been wearing your Superwoman cape more than your crown lately, here are 4 steps to asking for help without being needy
1. Start by recognizing that help is fundamental to the success of your business, family and community
There’s a lot at stake here. Consider what you provide for your children, your relationship, your team members, your community.
The work you provide for other subcontractors and service providers.
Given all that, can you see that taking care of your wellbeing is an absolute MUST? If you are not being energetically supported, and opening it up to others, then your wellbeing diminishes, and eventually it stops. So being fully supported wherever you need is a vital part of your work in the world.
2. Be specific about how you ask
What would be most useful to you? Rather than “I need help with this presentation”, think about what would make the most difference.
Do you want someone to read through your slides, to spend an hour as you run through what you want to say, or to give you feedback on the overall message?
Do you need your PA to block out time in your diary for you to get stuck into writing, send a quick “got your message” response to someone who’s waiting for an email, or take ownership of the sales spreadsheet you’re forever behind with updating?
It’s much easier for people to give you a clear answer to a specific offer – or to refer you to someone who they know will be able to help.
And when you do ask, don’t pre-empt a no
The data is clear – we’re much more likely to get a “yes” to a request than we imagine. So don’t fall into the trap of assuming it’ll be a no, or weighing down the request by saying things like “I know this is a total pain” or “You’re probably way too busy for this…”
Try thinking about how you feel when someone asks you for a hand. Most likely, you’re happy to help out – or, if you can’t, to say a polite “no”. The same probably goes for your friends, family and colleagues.
Focus on the difference it would make in a positive way – “This would save me loads of time” or “It would really make me feel less anxious to know you were there” and you’ll help the person you’re asking feel great about saying yes too.
3. Step into your Queen – and receive graciously
When you’re in the mindset of the Queen, the help you receive is a gift. It might be a great piece of advice from your accountant, a loving hug from your partner, or the person delivering your groceries.… whenever anyone is doing something to help you out, don’t push them away. Be gracious, be serene, be open to receiving. The way you graciously receive is, in turn, a gift to the giver.
A door being opened, being helped with your luggage, some hand-me-down toys from the neighbours, a smile from a stranger – every little gift you receive activates the archetype of the queen. And the more you receive, the more you will attract gifts into your life – it’s a deeply powerful practice.
It sounds obvious, but turning around the paradigm of doing everything ourselves takes all of us to play our part. Be open about the help you need, and generous with the ways you can help other people. By modelling what it’s like to give and receive help generously, you’ll help those around you break free from superwoman too.
Want to explore the Queen further?
If you’d like to learn more about the Women’s PowerTypes™, including a full description and a playlist of music that can help you tap into the energy of the Queen, download the “Life’s Little Toolkit”. As well as our favourite resources to stop worrying and beat overwhelm, it contains a guide to the Womens PowerTypes™ and suggestions for music to help you embody each one. Click here to access your FREE Toolkit now.
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