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Joan Rosenberg Ph.D.

What Makes It So Hard to Ask for Help?

Asking for help is an essential aspect of emotional strength.

Emotional Strength Defined: Being Resourceful

We are inherently social beings. Yet most people who have grown up in individualistic cultures like the United States are often raised with the belief that relying on others and asking for help is a burden to others and makes you seem emotionally weak. Despite these views, there is ultimately very little that any of us do to succeed fully on our own, even if that is hard to acknowledge. You need both independence and dependence—not one or the other. Our need to be alone and to pursue our individual goals must be balanced with our need to be with others, and when necessary, to request help.

As a quick reminder, I’m covering the two key aspects of emotional strength. In the previous post, I discussed the first part of what it takes to experience yourself as emotionally strong—that of being capable. I suggested that your sense of being or feeling capable of facing life’s challenges emerges out of your experience of effectively handling eight unpleasant feelings: sadness, shame, helplessness, anger, embarrassment, disappointment, frustration, and vulnerability. These are the most common, everyday, spontaneous feeling reactions to things not turning out the way you need or want.

Emotional Strength Defined: Being Resourceful

Being resourceful is the second defining element of emotional strength. It involves embracing the dependent side of your nature; it takes feeling vulnerable, courageous, and comfortable enough within yourself to recognize when you need help. When you are able to do that, you are more apt to openly and genuinely acknowledge your specific needs and limitations. This acknowledgment enables you to take the next, most essential move—that of asking for help. Asking for help is part of what it takes to be emotionally strong. Asking opens the door to the last step: to receive graciously.

It is appropriate to absorb what is good and to feel grateful for the appreciation and support of others. When others extend their assistance, wisdom, availability, time, talents, or enthusiasm to you, unquestionably, they are giving of themselves. Gracious receipt of their generosity not only meets whatever needs you may have, it also honors them. When you allow yourself to receive, you have reached that harmonious balance between independence and dependence.

Relying on others, experiencing needs and limitations, and asking for help are all part of being emotionally strong and of the human experience at large.

Asking for help is not a burden nor a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of humanness.

Being capable and resourceful are necessary in order to develop true emotional strength, confidence, and a sense of well-being. It involves accepting both parts of our nature, independent and dependent, and our ability to pursue things independently and deal with the upsets and downturns that demand we be capable and our willingness to be comfortable with our feelings of and need for being dependent—leaning on others so we can ask for and receive the help we genuinely need. It is not one or the other; it is both. When you stay well connected to your friends and family, let others really know you. When you are willing to lean on those who offer their help and support, you become more centered and calmer. That sense of inner peace is another outgrowth of emotional strength.

Believing you are capable and resourceful means you possess the emotional resources to go after the dreams and goals you have set for yourself, and that you possess the courage to ask for help when needed.


Rosenberg, J.I. (2019). 90 seconds to a life you love: How to master your difficult feelings to cultivate lasting confidence, resilience and authenticity. New York: Little, Brown Spark.

About the Author

Joan Rosenberg, Ph.D., a professor at Pepperdine University, is the author of 90 Seconds to a Life You Love.