Recently, I had a one-on-one meeting with my manager. This is a normal part of how things are done at my company (my manager meets with each person he supervises every other week), and one of the questions he asked me is what he (or anyone else on the team) can do to help me. I honestly didn't know how to answer.
I've always tried to be somewhat self-sufficient. I don't know if this is something that started when I was a kid or if it was a habit I developed later in life, but I don't like to ask for help. It's probably a combination of feeling that I needed to do everything myself to feel confident in my skills and trying to "prove" to others that I can do it all.
From a developer perspective, my struggle to use the resources around me started early in my coding journey. During the course of my coding bootcamp, I missed a lot of important coursework, and while I was able to watch video recordings and follow along with workshops, I mostly felt like I was teaching myself. While my instructors and teaching fellows were available to help when I needed them (and I did occasionally ask for help), I felt that because I was doing well overall I couldn't (or shouldn't) reach out for help when I was struggling.
I didn't help that my last company was one where my manager was a bit more hands-off. There were certainly people there who were more than happy to help when I asked, but I didn't feel like asking a lot of questions was part of the culture, and it was rare for someone to specfically ask if I had any questions or what they could do to support me. So I learned to do things alone, and when I struggled, instead of asking for the help I knew was available, I got frustrated and doubted my skills.
But the truth is, nobody can do everything alone. Everyone needs help with something. Some projects require more help than others, but it's never a bad thing to ask for help.
I've come to realize recently that everything is a process, including knowing when to ask for help. Just like I can't expect to show up on day one and know everything there is to know about writing code, I also can't expect to show up at my early jobs in the industry knowing everyone I need to know about being a developer and using the resources around me. It's a process, and just like I need to learn more about writing good code, I also need to learn more about when and how to ask for help.
I recently had a 1:1 meeting with the tech lead on my team, and she reminded me that I could go to her for help at any time. At the end of our conversation, we discussed possibly making this a more regular thing, and I said it would be a good idea to have it on the calendar because while it's still hard for me to reach out for help, it might be easier for me to ask for help while I'm already speaking to someone.
And that's where I'm starting from. If I know I need help, I can ask the people who I have meetings with about how I'm doing - whether that's my manager, my tech lead, or just another engineer who I happen to be meeting with. Once I'm comfortable with that, I hope that I can find a way to be comfortable reaching out and asking for help, even if I don't have a scheduled meeting with someone.
At my new job, I have a great support system. I work with some smart, knowledgable engineers, and I know that they are available to help when I need the help (or if they're not available right away, they can find a time when we are both available). When I was looking for a job, I knew that I wanted a job where this system was available, and while I'm glad to have found it, it was a bit surprising to realize that I wasn't ready for that support system.
My goal for the next few months is to be ready to use that support system. It will take some time, some patience, and yes, some help, but I know I can get there. I know that with some deep thought and hard work, I can figure out what I really need from my environment, how the people around me can best help me, and learn how and when to ask for help.
Asking for help does not make me less self-sufficient - it makes me someone who understands that no person can do everything alone. Once I learn to master asking for help, it will make me better able to handle things on my own and will make me feel even more confident in my skills and in my ability to do my work.