(Published in Khaleej Times, Dubai, dated 28th Nov, 2019)
These are exceptionally difficult times for us all. The world isn’t becoming any friendlier nor is life getting any more benevolent than it was yesterday. Yet we are putting up brave fronts, displaying our best attitudes and trying to be chivalrous to beat the instabilities.
What’s notable about these everyday battles is, more often than not, we are waging it all alone. Except for a few who have a safety net of extended families and friends, most of us are ploughing a lonely furrow. We are rooted in the belief that nothing serves us better than our own hands.
‘Help’, which used to be a given and taken generously in the past even without asking, now sounds like a word out of an old wives’ tale. Think about it without being smug and dismissive. How often have you felt distraught at not being able to find a crutch to lean on in times of struggle? More often than we may like to admit.
We are closely guarded in our confessions about our vulnerabilities, admitting less, and owning up little. We reach out short when in need. We are so puffed up with our self-reliant posturing that we believe seeking help is a sign of weakness and helplessness. We delude ourselves by insisting that self-help is what will take us across the Rubicon. Is that why self-help books sell the most these days, I wonder as a joke.
I have often asked myself if our ‘helplessness’ is a choice we make. Can we do with some advice when we have run out of ideas? Can we stop and take directions when we suspect we have lost our way? Can we ask for help when we need it? Of course, we can. What stops us from putting the reluctant hand out and asking for help? Why is seeking help such a big deal?
Now let’s get this straight. No one here is getting through this life drill smoothly. Our deficiencies are endemic to our existence, and therefore, to pretend that we are perfect and beyond the need for reinforcements in life is absurd and self-defeating.
What’s more, we have fears of not just being judged for our inadequacies, but also of being slighted and snubbed outright. I have lost count of the number of times my requests for help have been met with either stony silence or abject alibis. And how many times have people made promises that are made to sound like gospels, but fade out like a dream! These instances are common, and one must leave wide margins of errors for them.
Moreover, I have realised this: Seeking help and support doesn’t expose our powerlessness. On the contrary, it reveals our confidence in finding ways to beat adversities. Problems often don’t go away on their own. They persist until they are booted out. Solutions don’t emerge if you fight the problems secretly. They surface in different ways when you are ready to shed your pride and request for help.
So ask when in need. Unabashedly. Regardless of whether people understand or not, whether they are willing or not, whether the answer is in the affirmative or not. Help might be closer than you think.
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