Saturday Series: How to Use Adversity to Your Advantage Part 5 – Learning to Ask for What You Need

It’s not the load that breaks you down; it’s the way you carry it. – Lena Horne.

(This is the fifth in an 8-part guest series by Sarah Novak titled “Why Catastrophe ROCKS!  An 8-part Series on How to Use Adversity to Your Advantage.” Photo credit:

In the first 4 posts of this series (which are featured on the previous 4 Saturdays) we looked at why catastrophe happens, what responses are available to us and what the potential upsides may be. 

Last week’s post explored boundary-setting and times when we need to draw a line and say no in service of something greater. This week, let’s look at the flip-side of that – those times when we need to open ourselves up to accepting help.

Doing the Unthinkable.

Independence is one of the most treasured values in Western Society.

So much so, in fact, that our culture expects us to fiercely display it at all times or be seen as weak and needy. This societal pressure encourages us to “Just Do It” ourselves, creating a sense of isolation by cutting us off from one of our greatest resources – our community!  

Think about it, how many times have you done one of the following: 

  • Fallen behind in a class but not asked for help because you didn’t want to appear incompetent.
  • Gotten lost and wandered around aimlessly instead of simply asking for directions.
  • Ended up with too much on your plate and sacrificed sleep and sanity instead of asking for assistance from family or friends

Don’t feel bad if you see yourself reflected in the examples above. 

We are literally conditioned to avoid help at all costs (unless it’s absolutely the last possible alternative). Fortunately, adversity often provides conditions that challenge our capacity to the max and force us to consider previously unattractive alternatives (like asking for help). 

It is here that the opportunity for growth lies.  

Find An Alternative View.

It can be very hard to undo a firmly entrenched belief like “People who ask for help are pathetic/weak.” 

Often we don’t even realize we’re carrying these types of beliefs because they are ingrained in us as children and carried in our subconscious thereafter.

Take a moment to explore whether you might be holding a belief that would prevent you from asking for help. 

If so, the key to moving forward is to come up with an alternate belief that, while still true, gives you more freedom to engage in different behavior. 

One possible belief you might choose is, “Asking for help is a great gift to my friends and families because it allows them to feel important and needed in my life.” 

Can you see how this new belief slightly shifts our thinking and opens us up to the possibility of saying YES to help, even if it’s purely for the sake of the other person?

And it’s true, both parties win – you get desperately needed help and they get the satisfaction of doing something good for you.  

**Post 2 was all about reworking Limiting Beliefs, check it out if you missed it or are still unclear around the process.

The Trick to Asking for Help.

Though it may seem like an easy thing, we often make this process more difficult than it needed. 

The fact of the matter is that our loved ones worry about us when we’re in crisis and NEED to do something in order to assuage their fears around the loss of control they feel on our behalf.

If we don’t give them direction, we’ll end up with what THEY think we need (which may or may not be useful).  

Instead, I recommend using these 3 simple steps:

1) Shortly after the catastrophe happens, take stock of what kind of support you may need. Make a list of possibilities.

2) When individuals ask what they can do for you, ask them for something specific from your list instead of giving vague answers like “anything would help.”

For example, you may say: “Janet, I would love it if you’d bring me a dinner the week of the 14th” or “I know I’ll be nervous about my surgery on the 25thth, so would you call and check in on me the night before?”.

This specific action lets the person know they’re making a meaningful contribution and allows you to receive the type of help that benefits you most.

3) Don’t be afraid to politely decline or counter-offer if someone is set on a certain task they want to do for you and you know it’s either not helpful or bound to cause you added stress.

Just like we talked about last week, it’s okay to say no or suggest an alternative. Doing so does not make you a bad person and helps the other person help you the way you need!

What YOU can do for the Giver.

In return for their gracious assistance, you can:

  • Let them know the impact of their gift with genuine gratitude.
  • Not keep score. We have a tendency to get caught up in “keeping track” of who’s given what to whom. Don’t be afraid of having a debt of gratitude to someone. 

Whether or not you have the opportunity to pay it back in the future is irrelevant, as they are freely choosing to do this act of kindness for you. By openly acknowledging and receiving their gift, you are giving them a gift they need and want.

And that’s all there is to it folks. Isn’t it amazing how many opportunities for growth we have as a result of challenging circumstances? 

I’d love to hear from you in the comments below! Do you find it hard to ask for help?  Do you have a tendency to do more giving or receiving? What do you find most challenging about being on the receiving end? Let’s hear it! 

As a Cancer Coach, Sarah Novak is committed to helping female cancer survivors use their experience as a catalyst for transformation in their lives. Although we cannot control our circumstances, we CAN always decide how we choose to be with our reality. 

Check out to learn about her private and group coaching programs + receive her free guide: “Coping with the Everyday Fears of Cancer: How to Minimize Fear and Anxiety by Transforming Your Thoughts.”

** Want MORE BLISS and less stress in your life? Inner Sparkle: The 21 Day eCourse is made for you. Click here to get inspired. Happy. Sparkly. **


Facebook comments:



  1. says

    Feedback from the YLYW page:

    Isabel Miranda Thank you !! Your posts are always so timely !!! 🙂
    Saturday at 15:00 via mobile · Unlike · 1

    Nicola Gilbert I have just read all about me!!! – I very often need help, don’t ask for it and then get frustrated with people for not offering it. When you sit and think about it how messed up is that?? x
    20 hours ago · Unlike · 1

    Your Life YOUR Way I know right? Time to change it :)!
    19 hours ago · Like


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