Questioning your negative beliefs about help

October 31, 2022

Louis TayHelp can feel like a dirty word to some, especially when it comes to seeking or receiving help from others. The ironic thing is that when we are at the lowest point in our lives, we often need help from others to get back up. Yet, asking for and receiving help can also be the most challenging at that point.

When I was younger, I hated asking for help. On one occasion, I was recovering from an appendectomy and was not able to lift any heavy objects. My girlfriend back then, and now wife, was delighted to help carry my bookbag around for me. Despite knowing that she was more than willing, it felt enormously embarrassing to me. What would people think?

My protestations against receiving help were eventually subdued because of my need to get around and do work. So I had to begrudgingly accept the help. Yet, over time, I learned a valuable lesson about receiving help. Receiving help is just part of life. We all will need help at times, and it is only embarrassing if you make it out to be.

Research around beliefs about receiving help shows that our beliefs can influence our willingness to solicit or say ‘yes’ to help when it is offered. My graduate student Victoria Scotney examined different possible beliefs people have about seeking and receiving help and found that there may be as many as ten or more different beliefs.

Some common beliefs that may reduce our desire to seek and receive help are:

  • A belief that help diminishes you in some way
  • A belief that help threatens your independence
  • A belief that the experience of receiving help will be negative

While these beliefs may be natural in light of our upbringing, culture, and personality, it is helpful to interrogate these beliefs. Does receiving help really reduce your independence? Does finding help truly make others look down on you? Will the experience of receiving help be awful? You may find on many occasions that these beliefs are actually false.

By questioning and overcoming some of these negative beliefs, you may find more freedom in seeking and receiving help.

Be well,


Louis Tay is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychological Sciences. He has expertise in well-being, assessments, and data science. Be sure to check back each week for another wellness tip of the week!

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