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Women's Health

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"I Hate Asking for Help"

Excuse #1 “I Don’t Want to Look Weak”

On his first day of kindergarten, Joy Stewart’s son brought home a raft of paperwork, but only one document gave her pause: the emergency-contact form, on which she had to name someone who could pick Joshua up at school if she or her husband couldn’t be reached. “My family and friends aren’t available during school hours, so I didn’t have many options,” says Stewart, 41, a real estate agent and mom of two in North Wales, PA. “I wanted to ask my neighbor Nancy but we weren’t close — we just smiled and waved across the cul-de-sac. I figured she’d see me as pathetic and think, Why is Joy asking me? Doesn’t she have any friends?”

Turning to others in times of need should not be a source of shame. Rather, it’s a sign of strength and smarts because it means you know what you can and can’t handle and that you’re planning ahead to get everything done regardless. “But asking for help can reveal things about yourself that you may not be proud of or happy with,” Klaver says. “In Joy’s case, she didn’t like admitting that she didn’t have anyone she could call on to help her out.” To avoid falling into a similar trap, remind yourself that asking for help strengthens social bonds. “When you make yourself vulnerable, others open up in return,” Klaver points out.

Stewart agonized for two weeks, and then, finally, the day before the form was due, she mustered the courage to approach Nancy. Not surprisingly, Nancy happily agreed to be her emergency contact. “I wish I’d asked sooner, because it would have spared me a lot of angst,” Stewart says. “I wasted so much energy — and if Nancy had said no, I wouldn’t have had any backup plan.” A bonus to Stewart’s outreach: The two women now are friends and regularly chat together.

Excuse #2 “I Don’t Want to Impose on My Friends”

When Sharon Marcus moved to New York City from San Francisco, her good friend Anita volunteered to come paint her new apartment and do minor repairs. Marcus wanted to learn those skills and knew she would enjoy working with her friend. Still, “it seemed like a terrible imposition to ask her to take time off from her job, fly across the country, and spend a long weekend working on my new place,” says Marcus, 41, an English professor. She fretted for a week about whether or not to take Anita up on the offer.

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