Help! I Need Somebody...
In the Name of Allah, the Most Kind, the Kindest
بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
Can you say no without guilt? Do you struggle to admit to yourself and others when something doesn’t feel right or isn’t working out? Do you take on more than your share of the workload, and instead of encouraging others to step up, you overburden yourself? Do you struggle to pivot when plans go awry? Does this create feelings of frustration, guilt, and anger toward yourself and those concerned?
NO IS YES
From 2021 until today, I found that the answer to most of these questions is learning how to say no. I had to say no to say yes to my core values and what truly matters. I had to learn to be more assertive and honest about my feelings. I had to admit my limitations and stop pleasing people. Sometimes I was successful at this. At other times, I botched it completely. But I have no regrets because uncovering my yes meant empowering my no without harming most of my relationships. “Every important Yes requires a thousand Nos,” writes William Ury.
When we fail to ask for help, it is usually because we’re unwilling or afraid to say no. We seek to accommodate out of fear, or we attack out of anger, or we avoid the situation by saying nothing at all. The result is that we don’t receive the help we need and are left feeling resentful, vexed, and overwhelmed. Accommodation means saying yes when we want to say no. This happens when we want to be liked and accepted. We might be supporting everyone else, while no one is supporting us. Saying no may test the relationship.
Healthy relationships do not ask you to be a martyr or subordinate. They are about equality and respect coupled with a desire to see everyone thrive and succeed. They are collaborative and complementary, not competitive. People speak a lot about unearned privilege. There is also something called unearned trust. We often give our trust too freely to people with titles, power, and money. It may be fair to say that the two are closely related.
“Speak when you are angry, and you will make the best speech you will ever regret,” said Ambrose Bierce. When we fail to ask for help, we bottle up a lot of feelings. We may be offended by unreasonable demands or frustrated by the situation. These suppressed emotions may scream out like a pressure cooker causing us to lash out at our loved ones, clients, or friends. A good example of this is a story I’ve seen circulated on social media about a South Asian woman who devoted her life to serving her husband. She does everything for him and he seems to be helpless without her. She can’t meet her friends or make time for her own family or needs because she’s so busy doing her duty. Unfortunately, she dies unexpectedly. Everyone is concerned for her husband and wonders how he will manage. When they ring him, they discover that he’s getting on just fine. He’s hired a cook and sends his clothes to the laundry mat. His kids are in school or with a nanny, and he’s already looking for a new wife.
The moral is don’t sell yourself short and don’t overvalue everything you do. Say no to say yes! You don’t have to cook that’s not a given. He doesn’t have to repair the kitchen sink. Focus on what truly matters to you. Many women are unhappy today as their contribution toward the home and family is devalued or taken as a given with little appreciation. Many men also feel misunderstood by their wives who fail to appreciate how hard they work and the stresses they face. Couples in this type of relationship are usually consumed with seething rage.
Traditionally the idea is that both husband and wife sacrifice for one another performing complementary roles for the sake of God. They are interdependent and sincerely value each other. In such a marriage, there is conviviality, affection, appreciation, and loving attention that only deepens with time. This doesn’t mean they never fight or disagree, nor does it mean that their life is perfect. Far from it, rather they know how to weather life’s storms on account of their positive regard and ability to consistently turn towards each other!
Finally, we avoid saying no and asking for help. This is exceedingly common in families and organizations to avoid another person’s anger or disapproval. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
HOW DO WE ASK FOR HELP?
By learning to say no to wisely create what we want, protect what we value, and change what doesn’t work. Asking for help may also entail rocking the boat. Rock it! Don’t let fear hold you back. Moreover, we may need to swallow our pride and admit our limitations. This might necessitate introspecting on what we were taught. If we were made to feel that our worth came from how much we did for others, then we need to realize that we are enough. No one and nothing external to us can or will make us whole. We are inherently good and were born in a state of original innocence (Quran).
Asking for help requires speaking our truth and sharing our feelings.
“I’m overwhelmed and need help.”
“I would like assistance with this and cannot do it alone.”
“I value what we have and feel we can make a good thing better by…”
“Would you be so kind as to…”
“I’m asking for help, as I want to work together, not against [someone or something.].”
William Ury provides the following formula:
Facts: “When situation X happens…”
Feelings: “I feel Y…”
Interests: “Because I want or need Z.”
Remember, “Don’t be afraid to go out on a limb… That’s where the fruit is.” May we ask for help in the best and most beautiful way, may we recognize our feelings and admit our limitations, may we say no to say yes to the life we want and deserve to live!
From one needy of your dua,
PS. For further reading, see The Power of a Positive No by William Ury.