Why You Don’t Ask For Help & Others Don’t Offer

Why you don't ask for help is down to fear, pride, overwhelm, confusion and the mistaken belief that you need to do it yourself.  And the reason people don't offer to help is simple.  People are not mind readers.

A Difficult Situation

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you've been overwhelmed by how much you need to do or struggled to get a task completed?

Do you:

  • work longer hours than anyone else
  • put more effort in
  • make sacrifices and ultimately sacrifice your health and wellbeing in an attempt to get all the work done.

Exhausting, isn't it.

Surely the people around you can see you struggle, yet nobody offers to help.  So you continue to work long hours and get even more stressed.

You suffer all this, but you don't ask for help.

seated woman with people trying to get her attention so concerned with getting things done is why you don't ask for help

When there are constant demands on you from different directions it can be hard to find a way forward

Why You Don't Ask For Help

So, why don't you ask for help? It could be down to one (or a few!) of these reasons:


One reason you don't ask for help maybe because you're afraid that you're not good enough – hello, Imposter Syndrome!  What you forget is you can't know absolutely everything about everything. It's just not possible. 

Trying to convince yourself you should know doesn't make sense.  Ask yourself this 'have you come across this exact situation before?'  If you haven't, then there's no reason to think you should know.

Who decides what you should and should not know?  Usually, it's yourself. You're measuring yourself against an unrealistic yardstick and found yourself wanting.


As women, we try to be fiercely independent. You've worked hard to get to the position you're in.  You don't ask for help because you perceive that asking for help is somehow seen as a weakness. 

But this is not the case.  To ask for help is an act of confidence and strength.  You reveal a vulnerability that you are not perfect, and let's face it, no-one is perfect.  When you're confident, you're more comfortable with your limitations and prepared to learn from someone else. 

An example of this would be a GP who would refer a patient to a specialist for expert knowledge in a specific field.  The GP will understand the symptoms and the cause; they wouldn't be the best person to undertake surgery.

In the same way, acknowledge that others may have a better understanding or greater knowledge than you.  Swallow your pride and allow others to help you out.  Embrace the expertise of others.

Working in collaboration with others is excellent for building and strengthening work relationships.  You also provide an opportunity for someone to share their knowledge.

When you ask for help, you reach a quicker and easier solution whilst promoting someone else's expertise.  What could be better than a win-win scenario?

Woman overwhelmed sitting at laptop head in hands

It is easy to be overwhelmed when you have so much going on


Sometimes you can get so overwhelmed by what is going on; you fail to see all available options.

When you have lots of tasks and work commitments coming at you, it isn't easy to see the situation objectively. You don't ask for help because you don't know where to start.  There is just so much to do you don't know how to unravel it all.

The phrase 'can't see the wood for the trees' comes to mind. 

As a result, you spend your time reacting to situations rather than pre-empting them.  You think that if you just put your head down and spin as many plates as you possibly can all will be well.

The trouble in these situations is that you touch each issue's surface rather than find the deep-rooted solution.  Unfortunately, the problem does not go away, but it will raise its ugly head later.  Besides, if you try and ask for help, what is it you need help with?  It all becomes a big jumbled mess, so you struggle on and attempt to do your best to get it sorted.

If you don't ask for help, you run the danger of burnout.


Another reason why you don't ask for help may be down to confusion.  Perhaps you're confused about what it is you're supposed to be doing.

There've been many times when a boss gave me something to do.  On the surface, it seemed straightforward.   But when I started to dig deeper, I realised the issue was a lot more complicated than it initially looked.

Or perhaps you've been in a situation where you've been given a task by different people with different ideas and approaches.  It can be confusing to know who is right.  If you ask one person, you are committed to doing it their way, which the other person may not like.  If you are in a matrix reporting structure, this can be particularly problematic.  Or worse, the two people concerned don't get on with each other! 

Perhaps you don't know who or what to ask.  You know that you can't do whatever it is you have in front of you, but you haven't a clue who would be able to help.

Rather than ask for help, you attempt to work it out yourself.  The result is stress.

you don't ask for help because you think you can do it all

You think you can do it all, but you'd have to be superhuman to achieve that

It's Easier To Do It Myself

Sometimes you don't ask for help because you think it's easier to do it yourself.  You tell yourself:

  • I can do it quicker
  • Nobody can do it as well as I do
  • I prefer to be in control
  • It's my responsibility
  • Who can be trusted to do it (or do it as well as I can)
  • What if they really mess up?

Or even – what if they are better than me!

The trouble is, unless you learn to delegate, you will forever be overwhelmed with your workload.  Also, you deny others the opportunity to learn new skills or expand their knowledge.

If you continue to take the attitude that it's easier to do it yourself, you will be stuck with the obligation and stuck with where you are.

The more you hang on to doing things yourself, the less opportunity you have to take on new challenges and grow.  Remember, if you have aspirations to be a leader, one skill you will need to cultivate is the art of delegation.

So, what can you do?  The only option is to ask for help – however scary that may be.  But if you have a strategy to deal with asking for help, it can seem less threatening.

Why Other People Don't Step In

It doesn't matter what level or position you hold in a company; there will always be situations that arise that you find a challenge to deal with.  Either because of a lack of experience or time limitations.

At some point, every one of us needed help and wished someone would see our need and feel compelled to fill it. Yet somehow, when you need it most, that help is not forthcoming.

Your boss and colleagues are not mind-readers.

What can be incredibly frustrating is when you see someone struggling, you automatically step up and offer your assistance. You're happy to help someone out, without the expectation of anything in return – well, apart from a thank you, that would be nice.

Don't Expect Others To Read Your Mind

Unfortunately, only a tiny segment of the population is micro-focused enough to see when someone needs help. And can make things easier without being prompted.  If you are one of those people, then you are unique as you have a heightened awareness of those around you.

You don't ask for help because you expect others to step in, just as you would.

The vast majority of people are completely unaware. 

You can't expect your boss or colleagues to be mind readers.

It's not that they don't care or have some perverse pleasure to see others struggle.  They simply don't see it.  Or, because other people are around, they adopt what social psychologists term Diffusion of Responsibility, or 'bystander effect.' 

a busy workspace with lots of people milling around

Managers and colleagues are busy. If you're struggling they think someone else will help

Diffusion Of Responsibility

Diffusion of Responsibility means that people are less likely to take responsibility and do something if others are present either because they believe:

  • someone else will take responsibility
  • they are not personally responsible and cannot be blamed because others were also there.

For example

You might be overwhelmed by your workload and find you struggle with meeting project deadlines.

Work colleagues might notice the situation.  But they don't act as they believe the boss can also see the problem and step in if any help is needed.  And they haven't raised the matter because if the boss hasn't noticed, then someone else is bound to tell them.

The Secret Revealed

The secret is: to receive help; you need to ask for it. 

 But not only do you need to articulate what you want, but you also need to get specific about it. You can't expect anyone to read your mind or automatically step in. 

You Don't Ask for help because…

There are lots of reasons why you might not ask for the help you need.  In this article, we've covered the main ones, which are:

  • Fear
  • Pride
  • Overwhelm
  • Confusion
  • DIY

But each of these reasons serve no purpose.

a confident woman standing in front of a board of post-it notes

A confident woman takes it in her stride

What Would A Confident Woman Do

Confident women ask for help because they are:

  • Aware of their strengths and accept their limitations
  • Are clear on the outcome they want to achieve
  • Happy to create mutually beneficial work relationships
  • Willing to accept the expertise of others and not feel threatened by them
  • Comfortable not doing everything themselves, but help others to grow

If you don't ask for help, your confidence will suffer.  If you want to be more confident, asking for help when you are overwhelmed or struggling is a step in the right direction.

Please don't suffer in silence or expect your boss and colleagues to be mind readers.  To gain more confidence starts with being more aware.  Consider the reasons why you don't ask for help and challenge your thinking.

Become Self Aware

To discover how you can become more aware, you will find the following articles useful:

Why Self-Awareness Is Important For Your Wellbeing

5 Powerful Ways To Increase Your Self-Awareness

What Do You Stand For?

This comprehensive 36 page workbook with beautifully laid out and clear exercises will get you to the very heart of who you are.

Discover your very own blueprint for life … without spending hours navel gazing or getting confused! 

About the author Alison

A qualified UK based coach with 30 years of experience in personal development.

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