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Seek Professional Help


Asking for help has always been so hard for me. I always hated it when I couldn’t do something for myself. I felt like a failure. I was so used to being asked for help, I sort of felt like I’d lose my identity as “the knower” if I put myself on the other side of the table.

I flunked in college because I was utterly terrified to ask for help. Admitting I was lost and needed help was, for me, like stepping out of a plane without a parachute. Even if I wanted to do it, my body wouldn’t budge. Believe it or not, through twelve years of grade school I did not once say, “I don’t know how to do this. Please show me.”

I would do anything else instead. Skip class to study it on my own, work backwards from the solution in the back of the text, or most often, simply avoid it for the rest of my life.

Naturally, this strategy caused some problems. My report cards would eventually betray this flaw of mine. They’d go something like A, A+, B+, A, D. I’d fall off the track in the occasional course, because I’d hit a snag I couldn’t work through. I wouldn’t understand one concept, and then I’d have to BS my way through everything for the rest of the semester. A two-minute inquiry, a few times a year would have been enough for me to stay on the honor roll.

I’ve toned it down over the years, but the leave-me-alone-I-can-do-it-myself ethic still dominates, most of the time. I find myself spending an hour searching the web to answer a question myself instead of just calling somebody who would certainly be able to tell me.

I know I’m not the only one with this impractical level of compulsive DIY. My friend’s daughter (a brilliant little kid) was famous for tearing her jacket off if somebody attempted to help her put it on. She’d toss it on the ground, pick it up with a harumph, and put it on herself. “Fiercely independent, this one,” her mother would say.

Lesson Learned

If you’ve been following my Experiment No. 2 (Part 2), you’ve seen that I’ve been having some problems. For weeks now I’ve been floundering with these new exercises, which has opened up a whole world of doubt in everything I did with a kettlebell, even the movements I already knew.

Suddenly I couldn’t go full-bore like I wanted to. I hesitated at everything, quitting workouts halfway through because I thought I might be hurting myself or wasting my time.

My confidence was shot, and the whole thing was coming apart at the seams. I considered packing it in for now, even taking the drastic but familiar approach of avoiding it for the rest of my life.

With a little encouragement from one of the more influential people in my life, I bit the bullet and booked a session with a certified kettlebell instructor. Before he arrived, I prepared all my excuses for why I didn’t know what I was doing. I was scared of being embarrassed for my ignorance and incompetence, even berated for it. I envisioned some guy like Hans or Franz, pummeling me with a medicine ball, shouting in an Austrian accent that I’m just not cut out for this.

Of course, there was none of that. He was extremely easygoing, only there to serve me and my goals, wherever I was at.

Sixty minutes later, I knew what I was doing wrong. I’m sitting here now, and all of this month’s second-guessing, web-scouring, self-loathing and self-doubt are gone. Yesterday’s problem, just like that.

I have confidence in my form now. I’m ready to go at it again, and all I had to do was get a pro to show me the way. It’s a shame I spent so many hours trying to magically pluck the proper know-how out of thin air.

If you’re fiercely DIY-inclined like me, and there’s something you’re struggling with, stop wasting your time and just get help. Embrace the role of helpless moron, it’s actually kind of fun. The cost is probably negligible compared to the amount of time and frustration you’d have spent otherwise. My time is money too, and I blew a lot of it trying to be someone who doesn’t need help.

But I do need help. Help is awesome. And it’s everywhere.


Photo by Witt Istanbul Suites

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Positively Present August 20, 2009 at 5:52 am

I could totally relate to this post. I used to hate asking for help of any kind, but now I realize that I actually benefit so much from getting help from others and it doesn’t at all detract from my ability to help other people. Great post!
.-= Positively Present´s last blog ..a rain-soaked realization: are you living in YOUR moment? =-.

David August 20, 2009 at 6:21 am

I’ve learned this lesson before, but I like to think something really clicked in me this time. I got excited at the idea that there are probably a lot of ‘snags’ I’ve caught myself on that a little help would undo quickly. Things that have been snagged for years.

Jay Schryer August 20, 2009 at 7:53 am

This post really resonated with me, too. I really hate asking for help. It makes me feel like I’m weak, or stupid, or even (on bad days) worthless. I know this is irrational, and that everyone needs some help sometimes, but it still burns me up inside whenever I have to ask for help. For me, it has to do with my disability. I don’t want people to think of me as “disabled”, so I fight against having to ask for help on anything…whether it is related to my disability or not.

I’ve never really thought about it before. So thanks for writing this, because you’ve illuminated an area I need to work on. Thanks for your help! :D
.-= Jay Schryer´s last blog ..The National WWII Museum =-.

David August 20, 2009 at 11:56 am

I guess we all have our reasons for avoiding asking for help, and it seems to have to do with roles we’ve assumed. I always felt like my role was the person who was supposed to know better; I just didn’t ask for help. If I did I’d lose my identity. I never really thought about this consciously until after the fact. I’ve developed such a strong impulse to hide my ignorance, which is stupid because it ensures I remain ignorant.

Lisis August 20, 2009 at 8:15 am

Hey, David! What a great post… whenever someone admits to being a helpless moron, I know they are on the right path to Enlightenment.

Fact is, we don’t know everything… we may even know very little about the things we ARE familiar with. And the only way we’ll get better, stronger, smarter, or more useful is to turn to those around us and reach out to seek or give help.

I’ll tell you what I need help on these days, is reading “the signs”. I believe the Universe knows the way we each should take and leaves signs for us to follow, but it turns out these aren’t neon signs… or anything else that is easily apparent. I’d love to find a Universal trail blazer to help me get the heck out of the woods of uncertainty. Do you know any of those?

.-= Lisis´s last blog ..Inspiration from Brenda Short: Thank You =-.

David August 20, 2009 at 12:06 pm

Haha, no I don’t know any Universal trail blazers, though I’ve traditionally tried to be one. Maybe that’s just the secret: nobody knows everything, so everyone should be getting help with something.

Dealing with uncertainty has never really been a strong suit for me.

Kaushik August 20, 2009 at 11:17 am

I had this resistance in me–it’s unconscious and it’s constantly re-enforced by social ethics. A very insightful article–thanks!
.-= Kaushik´s last blog ..Call off the Struggle =-.

David August 20, 2009 at 12:07 pm

I’m going to try to remember the thought, “Who can help me with this?” every time I’m stuck with something, knowing how much time it can save.

JennyMac August 20, 2009 at 1:28 pm

I really like this post. It resonates with me as well since i am Type A and don’t like asking for help. Or at least in the past I have not. We have a 2 year old and I am much more aware of what I am doing and what I am teaching him..one of those things being, ask for help. Fun to be a hypocrite, LOL.
.-= JennyMac´s last blog ..Name Dropper =-.

David August 21, 2009 at 2:34 pm

Hi JennyMac, I’m pretty sure my parents did encourage me to ask for help, but I was against it from birth I guess :)

Find yourself with a smile... August 20, 2009 at 4:06 pm

A very nice post, David.

I’m very impressed with your candidness here.

I used to have a bit of this challenge myself… but I’ve really embraced finding someone who knows what they are doing. And I’m noticing more and more… people tend to enjoy doing what they’re good at. It’s amazing how much free, professional help is available just for the asking.

If we’re willing to ask…

It’s funny, I’ve known for years how much I love to help people with things I’m good at (paid or unpaid)… why did it take me so long to figure out that other people might feel the same way about things they’re good at :-)

I’m not convinced by the ‘helpless moron’ perspective… this doesn’t look like the blog of a ‘helpless moron’ to me… but if that helps you to surrender to the help and wisdom that is available all around you… then more power to you.

keep smiling,

.-= Find yourself with a smile…´s last blog ..Finally… Master Meditation Right Now! (part 6) =-.

David August 21, 2009 at 2:36 pm

That’s so true, people really do love to help. It makes them feel valued. I know I like to help.

‘Helpless moron’ is a bit of hyperbole, but it’s a good starting point.

suzen August 20, 2009 at 11:09 pm

Great post David. I feel sorry for the little kid David who had put so much pressure on himself to do everything, altho I must admit I had a lot of that too! Somewhere in life I learned that most people just love to help you – and it does as much for them helping as it does for you getting the help. Maybe another case for balance?

Learning the internet has been humbling – I ask for help ALL the time – and yet why should I think I should know all this?
.-= suzen´s last blog ..Goggle Giggles =-.

David August 21, 2009 at 2:37 pm

Yeah that would remain a pattern to big David as well. As Ben was saying, helping people really is a gratifying thing for the helper too. It’s almost a way of helping people in itself, by letting them help you.

John August 21, 2009 at 9:41 am

Wow, man you sound just like me. I’ve always disliked asking others for help and putting my confidence in the hands of those who know more than me. I always felt like asking for help made me a weak person. I’d ask myself why I couldn’t just learn it on my own. And of course I paid for it.

Now I know that there are tutors on campus for a reason. When I return this year, they’re going to remember me, because I’ll be coming back to them whenever I need help.
.-= John´s last blog ..The Top 10 Things to Do When Going After Your Desires =-.

David August 21, 2009 at 2:39 pm

By the time my school troubles reached the breaking point, I felt way too behind to go to a tutor. I didn’t want to tell them that I didn’t understand anything from all year, and I was sure they’d ask “Why are you just getting help now?

Chris Edgar | Purpose Power Coaching August 21, 2009 at 5:03 pm

Hi David. I can definitely relate to the compulsion to do everything myself, and although I used to think of myself as tough (and perhaps a “good boy” who doesn’t ask for too much) I now see it as a way of avoiding intimacy.

David August 24, 2009 at 6:24 am

I think you may be right. Being helped is intimacy, and intimacy is vulnerability.

brigid August 22, 2009 at 8:31 pm

this is me!!
I must admit I am getting better, and have started to realize that everyone (actually not everyone-there were always those kids I remember from school who were always happy to put their hands up) feels as bad about having to ask for help as I do. This has taught me compassion.
Asking is getting easier now and the answerers are always very kind, understanding and helpful. Thank heavens..or I might stop asking again!
I still tend to try and do it myself for a bit, but if I really can’t figure it out within a few hrs I will ask. that’s a definite improvement.
.-= brigid´s last blog ..This Is My World =-.

David August 24, 2009 at 6:26 am

Maybe that’s what I lacked: compassion. I think part of it for me was a weird academic superiority complex. I didn’t think everyone else was the same.

Tim August 23, 2009 at 9:51 pm


I’m right there with you. I am definitely a DIY guy to a fault. I need to change this. Even one of my closest friends confessed to me recently that I am too independent. I don’t mean to be this way, I think it is in my nature.

I appreciate your suggestions and think that I need help – most notably career/life coaching. Yes, I can read a lot of books, but nothing beats a good conversation with someone. Thanks for a great post!
.-= Tim´s last blog ..Receiving Advice =-.

David August 24, 2009 at 6:27 am

Too independent… well I guess if you have to err on one side, that’s the better one :)

Paul Norwine August 26, 2009 at 11:08 am

David –

I know exactly what you mean. I’m the type of person that needs to know how to DO something, not just knowing how to OUTSOURCE something. This is a little different than what you are talking about above but your post resonated with me. It has taken some time to sink in but I have realized that you can’t do EVERYTHING yourself if you want to be successful…you’re better off leveraging your strengths and getting help with your weaknesses than wasting time fighting and struggling through your weaknesses.

.-= Paul Norwine´s last blog ..Rich Schefren Called Me Out…but I Stepped Up to the Challenge =-.

David August 28, 2009 at 1:46 pm

For sure. As I said, I’ve spend three hours learning how to do something myself rather than get someone more skilled to do it.

Elisa August 28, 2009 at 9:41 am

Wow, I thought I was one of the only ones who did that in college. While it was hard and probably far more stress than necessary, it did help me to one my fantastic BS skills. :)

I’ve actually gotten a bit better with help to understand stuff, but not so much with help to do things. I’d like to say its fear of looking stupid or inept, but for me it’s totally a control thing. I’ll admit it, I SHOULD probably seek professional help because I am absolutely a complete control freak. That’s the worst part of asking…for me at least…no longer being in control of the situation/results/comprehension/etc.
.-= Elisa´s last blog ..Bumper Cars Is No Way To Meet Men =-.

David August 28, 2009 at 1:45 pm

Ah I have that control issue too, compounding my not wanting to look stupid issue. I’d rather control my way to mediocrity than ask for help :)

spiderlgs April 7, 2010 at 11:23 pm

This is so much like me.. except I’ve never had a problem asking for help in a situation where I was there to learn. Like school, i knew I wasnt supposed to know everything so I could ask. BUT if there is something that i should know, but don’t or there is something (i think) everyone else knows but I don’t then I can’t. I just got to the point where I could ask for help finding places, or asking for clarification on directions or when I don’t understand whats on a menu… Its cause I don’t want people to think i’m dumb, or slow. I’m working on it.. letting my guard down and realizing that someone else probably has the same question too.. I just don’t like taking that small risk that I might be made to feel like a fool.

David April 10, 2010 at 1:18 am

Yeah that was the root of my problem. I didn’t want to look like I didn’t know everything I was supposed to know. The irony is that I made myself into a huge fool my not getting help, because my learning hit a wall and I had to continue to pretend I knew it all.

Joseph Tran April 9, 2010 at 9:23 pm

I’ve struggled so much with this problem. I still do. I’m a Junior in high school, and let’s be honest, my Algebra II grade for the 3rd quarter is awful. It really came to a point where we had a chapter test, and I knew ABSOLUTELY nothing. That initial week of learning the material was downright pitiful, and for icing on the cake, I was caught napping during class. That had never happened before. I struggled immensely grasping what should have been a fairly simple concept, and whenever my teacher would walk by and ask if I had any questions, I’d shrug him off and say, “Everything’s fine.” My test grade obviously didn’t express the same feeling…and believe it or not, I wrote a paragraph explaining why the test was mostly blank. Essentially, it stated that I had a rotten attitude and general laziness towards the course, and I truly wanted to turn things around. I’ll swallow my pride here and admit that I failed that 3rd quarter.

Where it really hit me was when you mentioned the whole “leave-me-alone-i-can-do-it-myself” attitude. My peers generally go to me for advice during church youth group and just in general, but that thought of vulnerability really scares me a lot. I thought I was that guy that knew..well, a lot of things. But I just shoved aside what I didn’t know and tried to cover it up. And that’s what I think truly hurts me in school.

And I LOVED one of your replies, it went along the lines of, “Who can help me?” whenever you would get stuck. I’ll definitely remember that the next time I get caught in a rut.

Thank you so much for writing this article… I truly appreciate this. I’ve spent the past hour or so pouring over your old posts, and I must say, this site is terrific. I “stumbled” on this page via StumbleUpon (A great time waster :P), and I’m so glad It took me to this site. I’m definitely signing up for email subscriptions.

David April 10, 2010 at 1:23 am

Thanks Joseph. What I wish I knew was how we tend to define our identities on the roles we’re used to playing. I inadvertently identified myself as “smart guy” and smart guy doesn’t ask for help. So smart guy suffered until he learned he’s more than smart guy after all.

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