Issue 11 of Responsibility syndrome
If you suffer from responsibility syndrome, it is probably safe to say that you ask for help far too seldom, even though you are pretty much always there to help out others. If so, it is important to remember that you do others a favor when you ask them for help. It’s healthy to formulate your needs and help others help you. They will feel closer to you when you describe what you find difficult and what they can help you with.
Now, we know that the concept of asking others for help when you have too much on your plate isn’t exactly rocket science. But that doesn’t mean that it’s not important. You don’t have to ask for any huge favors. It could be enough to ask a friend if you can bounce a few ideas off them, if they can pick up your kids at school once a month or bring some food over if you are hosting a casual dinner.
By simply talking about your problems with a friend you can make them feel less insurmountable. Researcher Simone Schnell and colleagues (2008) designed an experiment to examine how participants estimated the steepness of a hill. It turned out that those who walked in pairs (social support) thought the hill was significantly less steep than those who walked up the hill by themselves. The researchers concluded that social support doesn’t just help us get through challenges, but also helps us interpret the challenges as less demanding – even when it comes to something as tangible as the incline of a hill.
Negative emotions and experiences cause a lot of people to withdraw from others. Like clams, we close our valves and try to manage on our own. But in all likelihood, your friends and family want to help you when things are difficult or stressful. Most people want to contribute to making other people’s lives a little bit easier. However, many of them don’t know how they can help, and don’t want to risk bothering you or coming across as meddling. That’s why asking others for help is doing them a favor.
When you are working on any type of task and want others to do their share without explicitly asking them to help out, this is called imaginary delegation. Think about situations in your life where you may be engaging in imaginary delegation. When the next opportunity comes, try to explicitly ask for help. Note what happens.
- Write down a list of people close to you who you think you could ask for help with small and big things. It could be your parents, grown children, coworkers, friends and/or neighbors.
- Write down what you would like help with in everyday life in order to reduce stress. It could be picking up your children after school, proofreading work assignments or simply someone asking you to come along for walks every now and then.
- Text or call these people and ask them if they can help you out.