SOS – Asking for help

SOS001Even as a small kid I had always been a loner. Maybe it had to do with the fact that I was an only child and the only real friends I had were the ones who I used to play cricket and football with. And given the physical nature of these games and the extremely competitive mindset with which young boys usually approach sport, it was a given that I hated to lose, I hated to display any weakness on the field and the notion that ‘boys don’t cry’ was firmly entrenched in my mind.

This attitude coupled with the peer pressure to maintain an image of being infallible and heroic meant that from a very young age, I have always hesitated to admit my lack of knowledge or skills in a particular field or subject. Even in the few instances that I really lacked knowledge such as math and a few other academic ones, I convinced my parents to enroll me into tuitions citing the fact that since my friends had enrolled for the same, it made sense for me also to do so, if not for anything else, at least to ensure that I don’t get left behind in the rat race for marks.

SOS002As time went by and as I realized that there were more than a few things around which I had no clue about and for which I had to rely on others who knew more about the subject than me, it dawned on me that there simply was no way that I could go on living without approaching anybody for assistance. And even then, the entire process of me approaching somebody who was an expert or knew something better than me, and asking them to help me out was not something that naturally came to me.

However, a few good friends and well intentioned college-mates put me in my place and in their own firm ways ensured that I swallowed my pride, ate humble pie and took help as and when necessary. Despite this, the fact remains that it took a corporate environment and my first job to realize how woefully at sea I was when it came to ‘the real world’ and real life situations which demanded asking for assistance.

SOS003My first supervisor, my first mentor and really good friend back then was someone who called a spade a spade and ensured that I clearly understood the fact that there were more than a few things, in fact there was an entire world of information out there for which I would clearly have to rely on subject matter experts, and that the only way they would assist me would be if I actually approached them with clear cut requests as to what I needed their help for. Although it took me a while to learn, I will be grateful to him for having taught me that important lesson in life, to ask for help when I needed it the most.

In fact, over the past few years, as I have grown older and hopefully wiser as well, it has become easier for me to recognize when I need assistance and yes, I have grown better at asking for it when I need it. Obviously I don’t go around asking anybody and everybody for help, but tend to rely on a few trusted friends and confidantes for the same, and I know for sure that these people will at least guide me in the right direction even if they are not able to help me out personally. And there isn’t a single day when I don’t thank God, fate or destiny (whatever you believe in) for these friends and confidantes.

So, what about you folks? How easy is it for you to ask for help when you need it? Or are you the type of person who relies only on yourself to get things done? Let the rest of us know in the comments section.


This post has been written for Project 365 : A post a day where the intention is to publish at least one post a day based on the prompts provided. Today’s prompt was “Is it easy for you to ask for help when you need it, or do you prefer to rely on yourself? Why?

23 thoughts on “SOS – Asking for help

  1. I have no hesitation in asking for help, not only when I need it, but even when I don’t really need it but I think the other person can perform a particular task better than I can. I guess this is because:
    a. I have never had any hesitation in helping or genuinely offering to help others.
    b. I think it’s better to acknowledge a gap in my skills or knowledge, get that gap filled by somebody else, and to try to acquire that particular skill or piece of knowledge so that I can be self-sufficient in future. I try to practise this myself, and I encourage others to do the same.

    • @Proactive Indian, given that we all work in a corporate environment where appearances and perceptions matter more than reality, I guess most of us tend to hesitate to approach others for assistance for the fear of being branded as somebody who is incompetent. However, as for point b of your comment, have to fully agree with you that acknowledging a gap in skills and taking necessary steps to upskill oneself is the best way to go about it.

  2. Your honesty to do with your fears and misgivings, childhood and adulthood is admirable. Just how many of us would want to admit what you so freely do is something I sit and wonder after reading this post. Such are the times that a brave face is worth a thousand shares whereas one seeking help is asking to be patronised and domineered over with gyaan or favours, and worst of all pity. I like how you transitioned from being too proud to admit where you lacked and seeking expert advice to now, where we both as friends freely share nuggets of advice with each other. 🙂

    • @Sakshi, it also helps that you are an approachable person with no hidden agenda and offer advice whenever it is necessary, and also are candid enough in calling a spade a spade. I have always been a huge fan of constructive criticism and of people who offer help and assistance in a manner that is not condescending to the person receiving the assistance. And you, my friend, are at the very top of this particular list 🙂

      As for being honest with my fears and misgivings, over the years, I have realized that being honest, open and receptive to change them has been the only effective way to tackle them successfully.

  3. I relate to many of your feelings. As an only child amongst 9 siblings (yup! True…and you’ll have to read about it when I write it one of these days) growing up was hard and I had to do it quick and early. Since then I’ve always considered myself a loner, someone totally comfortable with being alone for long periods of time.

    I still haven’t learned how to ask for help. I am aware when I need help, I just can’t face the possible rejection so more often that not, I don’t ask at all. Eventually, I figure it out somehow.

    On my own.

    • @TheLastWord, now with a gravatar handle like that how am I expected to reply to your comment 😀

      Jokes apart, here’s wishing you all the very best in this journey of figuring out when to ask for assistance and whom to expect it from.

  4. A very honest post Jai. And a lot of those feelings, I can relate too – Probably because of the only child thing. I doubt even if I’ll ask for help either. I try to these days because I’ve come to realise that not all of us can do everything. But yes, sometimes it’s that possibility of rejection of help that makes me not want to ask. Or sometimes the feeling of being mocked. Well, to sign off – you can always talk in Vegas 😀

    • @Sid, well, today I have reached a situation where I put myself out there (at least to a limited extent) and ask for assistance from folks who know better. If they help me, well and good, if not, I move on and try to figure things out myself.

      For all the rest, the three of you (you know who you are) are online and there are around three others offline (even you know who you are).

  5. Yes, we all need assistance at one time or the other. It is not a sign of a weakling. In fact I would say it is a boon else how would we interact with people, get to know them, identify the genuine from the fake. We would be islands in a vast sea.

    I have no hesitation asking for assistance.

  6. It takes courage to write about this Jairam. I remember looking at the prompt and wondering how would I write about this. I am also very hesitant in asking for help but the fear in me stems from the lingering feeling of rejection or perhaps a bit of pride too. I think it is a personality trait. Most people who talk less or are who like to spend time alone tend to do that.

    • @Jas, it is that precise feeling of pride and the small voice in my head that keeps telling me “What is it that this person knows better than I do?” that kept me (and still does at times) from approaching anybody for assistance. That and the fact that there is a small chance that the person will not offer to assist me. But then, overcoming this pride and fear of rejection has really helped me at times to get things done the right way.

  7. Jai, I believe a single child or not, all of us have some pre-conceived notions about what others might think if we ask for their help. Not just that they might find us as someone who lacks knowledge or skill and might tease and humiliate us but we also tend to restrict ourselves because we feel that they might get disturbed or we might be misusing their precious time. All in all, it is only with age that we get better with certain things and open up. About a decade ago, my answer to your question would be I prefer to rely on myself because I hate disturbing others. But today, I am less hesitant in asking for help. And who else would know it better than you, Saks and Sid. 🙂

    • @Rekha, yes, we all grow up (mentally as well) with time, don’t we, and age brings with it the wisdom to realize that we might not be good at everything we do or want to do and this wisdom gradually helps us open up to other people for assistance.

  8. Very true Jairam… I used to do the same but as I grew up and looked back I would realize how better off I would have been had I bothered to seek help. Like you said, the true eye opener was at work, i realized the best way to grow was to learn… as much as possible, I shed away those inhibitions and did just that. I try to do that today as well because I realize the only way to climb those rungs is through learning and improving….what also has helped is the realization that nobody is really perfect; that understanding came when I took the Strength Finders test in my previous company, it taught me a lot about how one should play to their strengths and in cases of their weaknesses should turn to those for whom they are strengths…

    • @Seeta, so true, in a corporate environment and more so in my present employer (and your last one) where the culture is open and collaboration across groups and teams and individuals is encouraged, it always helps if we approach the ‘experts’ for assistance and more often than not, people are helpful unless they are well and truly bogged down by some of their deliverables.

      And yes, playing to one’s strengths while working around the weaknesses is the optimal thing to do given the crazy pressures work deliverables bring with them.

  9. What more can I say? The fear of being rejected, the fear of being looked down upon and the fear of being taken advantage of – all play a part at various times and in various arenas 🙂

    • @Suresh, so true, especially the last one, the fear of being looked down and being ridiculed, that was one strong impediment for me all these years whenever I had to seek assistance

  10. I liked this post. I learnt the hard way that its ok to ask for help.
    Over the years, I have learnt to ask for help wherever I need it. And I help out whenever and however I can.
    I think knowing one’s limitations isn’t a sign of weakness but a sign of strength because you know what you are lacking in and you have the weapons to either overcome it or live in peace with it.

    • @pixie, yes, just like you it took me a while and some hard knocks to learn this lesson the hard way (just like I learnt most of the other lessons in my life)

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