Asking Is Healthy But Demanding Is Destructive

Some people feel unable to ask for help while others aren't afraid to demand from others what they need. What are these differences due to?
Asking Is Healthy But Demanding Is Destructive
Elena Sanz

Written and verified by the psychologist Elena Sanz.

Last update: 21 December, 2022

Relationships are complex and you’re not always clear about the healthy limits to follow. For example, sometimes, you’re hesitant to ask for help. Contrastingly, in other situations, you get frustrated and angry when others don’t respond to your demands. Finding a balance isn’t easy. However, it’s important to be clear about the difference between asking and demanding. Because asking is healthy but demanding is destructive.

When you came into the world you were helpless and dependent on others to survive. As a baby, you cried, and adults came to meet your needs. In this way, you grew up with the peace of mind of being cared for and supported when you needed it. Later, during childhood, your behavior and expectations were shaped. You learned how to cope with frustration and tolerate refusal.

However, if at any point, this process failed, your view of social interactions won’t have been adequately formed. For instance, if you weren’t treated correctly, you’ll have learned not to ask. However, if you were given everything you demanded you’ll have become demanding. As an adult, you need to review your beliefs and actions and relearn what’s necessary.

Asking is healthy, why don’t you do it?

Boy looking out the window

Humility

Do you feel unable to ask others for help, comfort, companionship, or anything else you need for fear of disturbing them? As a matter of fact, this extreme or misunderstood humility is relatively common. You don’t know if, with your request, you’ll be interrupting, bothering, or annoying the other person and therefore you avoid it.

Nevertheless, you’re probably extremely willing and helpful yourself. Try to understand that help, generosity, and solidarity are acts that enrich both those who give them and those who receive them.

For example, no doubt you’ve experienced the gratification of having been able to help someone who’d lost their way or of helping a friend when they felt lonely. Indeed, requests flatter you more times than they annoy you because they make you feel needed and appreciated by others.

Low self-esteem

Perhaps you don’t ask because you don’t feel worthy of receiving. In fact, you don’t believe that you’re valuable enough for another person to invest their time, effort, or dedication in you.

This could be because you’ve received negative reactions in previous experiences. Therefore, due to your low self-concept, you have a tendency to relate to narcissistic or egotistical people who never give anything to you. Furthermore, they reinforce your idea of being undeserving.

You must remember that you’re worthy and valuable. Every healthy relationship is reciprocal and balanced, based on giving and receiving, and enriches both parties equally. For this reason, if you don’t ever dare to ask, start working on yourself. If you’re not receiving anything, rethink your relationships.

The ego trap

You may never ask for anything because you feel it’d make you appear vulnerable or needy. Because you associate strength with self-reliance and refuse to turn to others for help of any kind.

You might also believe that others should be able to guess your needs and cover them without you having to express them. This is portrayed in the statement: “If I have to ask you, I don’t want it anymore”.

However, this is a childish and impractical statement, based on your ego. Assertiveness is a basic and necessary communication skill. Nobody can guess your thoughts and it’s your responsibility to express and transmit what you want. In addition, human beings need each other, our nature is interdependent and there’s nothing shameful about this.

Man thinking about asking

Asking is healthy, but demanding is destructive

Asking is healthy as long as you understand that the other person isn’t obliged to fulfill your requests. It’s your right to ask and it’s the other’s right to set limits and choose if they’re willing to help you. It’s essential to respect each other’s will.

Therefore, you should ask without fear of disturbing others, so they can meet your needs. You deserve it. However, don’t demand, don’t threaten, and don’t impose. You’re an adult. No one is obliged to help you and coercing another with threats or emotional blackmail is never healthy. Ask, but don’t demand. Remember that it’s your decision to leave a relationship if you’re not satisfied.

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The contents of Exploring Your Mind are for informational and educational purposes only. They don't replace the diagnosis, advice, or treatment of a professional. In the case of any doubt, it's best to consult a trusted specialist.