Refusing To Ask For Help

Over the last several years and the past 12 months in particular, I’ve been committed to learning how to lift weights in a way that won’t hurt me. In the past, I’ve always stopped at some point. In my teens and twenties, I lifted a little too heavy using poor form. I hurt myself. It was the kind of pain that led to to unplanned down time in the training schedule. I stopped because of this pain I couldn’t ignore. 

I got back into the gym in my early 30s. I took classes to learn proper form. Just months before we all knew what a pandemic was, I had been certified to be a spin instructor. I was proud of myself. Not only could I complete an hour long spin class without dying, I could talk to other people while I did it. This was a big leap from where I was 10 years before. 

Any kind of routine I had was blown up when COVID hit. I went from a reliable gym routine to working out in a dark bedroom before work. I hated it. I missed my friends. I wanted to go back to the classes that kept me focused even when I didn’t want to climb out of bed on a snowy morning. 

I never got back into that class routine over the last three years. I got back to the gym eventually. During van life, the most reliable place to get a hot shower was the closest Planet Fitness. I started to lift a few times a week. It has become a critical part of my ability to manage my sometimes crippling anxiety. 

When I don’t workout, I can feel the overwhelm all over my body. To keep my routine, it meant I had to stop hurting myself during the workout process. So to improve my technique and avoid pain, I watched a lot of videos. My algorithm is a weird place – puppies, pro body builders, and workplace memes. 

This effort has paid off. I’m noticing my strength go up, but I also know I’m going very slowly. First, because I don’t want to hurt myself repeating the mistakes I made in my 20s. Second, because I’m scared to drop something heavy on my face. I already broke five toes that way. Finally, I realized this week it’s because I will not dare ask a stranger to help me. 

Asking for help is not a strength of mine at the gym or anywhere else. I realize those strangers probably wouldn’t mind helping for 2 minutes. I just can’t bring myself to look a stranger in the eyes as I potentially fail at something. Even if it’s just one lift on one bad day, I can’t.

I hesitate to ask anyone for help. What if it doesn’t work out? What if something happens that makes it weird? I don’t want to ruin a friendship because I didn’t do it all myself. 

That’s exactly where I think a lot of us get it wrong – especially people that were socialized as female at a young age. We think we have to do it all ourselves. It doesn’t matter the topic – whether you’re at the gym, managing a chaotic schedule, or making financial plans – we are not encouraged to ask for help. We’re told to “figure it out” and “where there’s a will, there’s a way.” These little one-liners become lessons that make it even harder to ask for help. 

At least partially, my fear of asking comes from believing that doing it all myself will deliver more joy. Somehow my accomplishment will feel bigger and better if I know I did it without help. Which, admittedly, feels kinda stupid once I say it loud. 

Asking for help doesn’t have to be an act of shame. There’s nothing to be afraid or ashamed of when you allow other people to help. The joy doesn’t feel bigger if I’m standing alone at the finish line I can’t define. I imagine it would feel pretty lonely, not better. Same for you. 

So in the gym and even during my really shitty week (literally, poor dog), I’ve been practicing inviting my people to help me. Guess what. Good things happened when I did. I asked someone to spot my bench and I got to celebrate a new max. I asked my girlfriend to send groceries so I didn’t have to leave the sick dog at home. Not only did she send those groceries, she even sent my favorite snacks. I asked my launch team to spread the word about my book pre-launch and holy shit those folks showed up for me. 

Hell, I’m even going to ask for help right now to share my book on Monday when it’s released. Maybe it’ll get in the right hands. I’ve always wanted to meet Glennon Doyle. #Manifest 

I want you to ask for help, too, even if it’s the smallest things. Refusing to ask for help has only made me feel more burnt out. Letting people help, on the other hand, has allowed me to find a whole lot of gratitude and joy in the mundane days. The kind that makes life feel a little easier, even on the shittiest of days. 

Weekly Letters

Kat Kibben View All →

Kat Kibben [they/them] is a keynote speaker, writing expert, and LGBTQIA+ advocate who teaches hiring teams how to write inclusive job postings that will get the right person to apply faster.

Before founding Three Ears Media, Katrina was a CMO, Technical Copywriter, and Managing Editor for leading companies like Monster,, and Randstad Worldwide. With 15+ years of recruitment marketing and training experience, Katrina knows how to turn talented recruiting teams into talented writers who write for people, not about work.

Today, Katrina is frequently featured as an HR and recruiting expert in publications like The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and Forbes. They’ve been named to numerous lists, including LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Job Search & Careers. When not speaking, writing, or training, you’ll find Katrina traveling the country in their van or spending some much needed downtime with the dogs that inspired the name Three Ears Media.

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