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Why is it so hard to reach out?


Reaching out to ask for help can be a difficult task. When approaching a therapist or a friend to talk about something that is troubling us, we often find ourselves struggling to take that first step. Vulnerability can be scary. Showing another person a part of yourself that you find difficult to understand or are struggling to cope with can be a scary prospect. If you can't understand it or overcome it, why would someone else be able to? Often, once we open up we find that someone else has been through a similar situation or experienced a similar feeling. Fear of showing vulnerability and opening up can be isolating in itself, fear of judgement from others who we assume are not feeling any of this.


So what is it that gets in the way?

"They won't care about this"

You might feel like people simply don't care about your problems, or that they won't be interested in hearing them. Expecting rejection, especially when you are asking someone to listen to your worries, can be scary.


"I can't talk to them about it, they have their own problems"

Often people say things like this because they don't want to be a burden to others. In reality it's more likely that the people that care about us want to help us with the things that trouble us.


"It could be worse"

The phrase does a good job of minimising the struggle you're experiencing, whether you are hearing from someone else or thinking it yourself. Whilst it might be true that you are not facing the same problems as others, it does not mean that you have to face those problems alone. Your struggle doesn't come with a level of difficulty and there is no need to quantify a problem to determine if you need support.


"Have you tried...?"

Some people will respond to hearing about a stressful situation by coming up with solutions or trying to help you to solve the problem when all you were looking for is for them to listen and show support. This can make you feel as though they are trying to take the control from you which might make you feel as though you can't talk to this person about the issue. It's okay to remind someone that you are not looking for a solution if you are just wanting to vent.


There are plenty of things that get in our way when we are seeking support, hurdles that come from us or others. Coming up against these hurdles can sometimes feel just as difficult as the coping with the struggle you are facing, but if you are seeking support it might be worth reflecting on why you are struggling to reach out. Why are you expecting rejection? If you did get a rejection, would you be okay with it? Consider if you are asking the right person, and if you are then a "not right now" is unlikely to be about you and more likely to be that they don't have the capacity to help you. Try to reflect on how you have felt when supporting someone else and how the other person might feel good about helping you too. Remember that relationships should be two-way and feeling supported by your network is as important as offering support to them, but they can only support you if they know how you are feeling and what is going on.

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