How to overcome the fear of asking

As a first-generation American, the message that I received about success was that if I just put my head down and worked really hard, I would get what I wanted. My parents have told me countless stories about how they didn’t receive help from anyone when they first came to the U.S. and had to rely on their own hard work and determination to survive. It became a source of pride for them – why should they ask for help when they’ve been able to make it all by themselves?

Growing up hearing these stories and watching how hard my parents worked led me to believe that asking for help (or anything else for that matter) was considered a sign of weakness and a waste of time. So, I resolved myself to a career of total self-reliance – I would stay in my lane, maintain a good work ethic, and figure things out on my own, just like my parents did.

Well, I got a rude awakening once I entered the corporate world. I quickly realized that even if I was the most valuable employee on the team, it wouldn’t make a difference for my career progression unless I had the right people in my corner. I watched as those who didn’t contribute as much as I did (but did take the time to cultivate relationships with our managers and ask for resources) move up much faster, and I eventually left the firm, as I thought I would just never be able to catch up. 

This is something I struggled with as an entrepreneur as well, except this time, I wasn’t asking for a promotion or a raise, but for referrals and business. Just the thought of reaching out to an old contact made me uneasy. I would spend so much time thinking about all of the potential reasons why they wouldn’t respond or be a good fit, that I’d convince myself that it wasn’t worth making the ask. 

I allowed these fears and assumptions to paralyze me and hold me back from getting what I wanted in my business and career. I reached a breaking point and finally decided to begin reframing and dismantling each of them: 

  1. Fear of triggering, bothering, or inconveniencing someone
    Most people don’t actually care about or have an opinion of you, so ask for what you want and do what you wish anyway. Usually, when you make the assumption that someone will think you are [fill in the blank], all you’re doing is projecting how you feel about yourself onto them and using it to rationalize not making the ask.
  2. Fear of feeling stupid or weak
    Not asking for help is the real sign of weakness, because it shows that you’re not brave enough to make yourself vulnerable. Asking for anything requires you to expose yourself to some extent, and this can be scary if we don’t know what response we’re going to get. However, leaning into this uncertainty and taking that leap of faith anyway is the greatest indicator of strength and courage.

I should share that this isn’t exactly a “switch” that you can just turn off. When you’ve been conditioned to solely rely on yourself, it is a constant, everyday battle to shift away from this mindset, and the only way to do that is to practice. Send that message, request for help, make the ask. 

If you struggle with asking for help or for what you want at your job and are looking for tips to navigate this, click the button below to contact me and set up a discovery call or email me at [email protected]