There are few things healthier for the soul than helping others. The world is rough, and everyone could use a hand up occasionally.
Unfortunately, it is far too easy to lose oneself in trying to help others because of the vast amount of suffering in the world.
You may find that you regularly tap yourself out because you see these problems and want to address them. You may even feel like you’re obligated to do so.
The truth is that you are but one person in an ocean of suffering. You cannot take responsibility for the peace and happiness of other people. Sure, you can contribute to peace and happiness. You may be able to help make another person’s journey a bit smoother occasionally, but you can’t take responsibility for it.
And you needn’t feel guilty for that either. You can’t bail out an ocean with your bucket.
Another issue is that you deprive other people of their own success by helping them too much. By taking responsibility for their peace and happiness, you deprive them of the ability to learn the lessons that life will teach them as they raise themselves up.
This article will discuss the difference between helping others in a healthy and unhealthy way. If you cannot say no, feel responsible for others’ happiness, or neglect yourself to help others, this article is for you.
Let’s look at the most common signs that you are addicted to helping other people.
1. You feel guilty or anxious when you can’t help someone.
People with unhealthy boundaries may feel guilty or anxious when they cannot help someone. It may be that you don’t have the means to help someone, you can’t get them to help themselves, or you fail at helping them.
That’s just how it goes sometimes. You can’t help someone who doesn’t want to help themselves. There is a significant lack of resources available for many people. And, more than you may expect, people reject help when it’s presented to them in the most idiotic ways.
“I don’t want to fill out that form.”
“I don’t accept charity.”
Furthermore, some people prefer to dwell in their own problems and drama because that’s where they are most comfortable. It sounds strange, but it’s true.
All you can do when you feel anxious or guilty about not helping someone is to remind yourself that these aren’t your problems to fix. Allow yourself to feel your emotions, but don’t allow your emotions to drive your choices. You should find that these feelings ease after you do this for a while.
2. You feel like you can’t say no, even when you’re overwhelmed.
You are allowed to say no. A ‘no’ is a healthy boundary that serves as a wall to protect yourself from everything else going on around you.
In many articles and pithy sayings, you will find that no is a complete sentence and the foundation of emotional boundaries. That is true. However, you should be aware that using no as a complete sentence can cause significant problems in your relationship.
It may be that you have unhealthy boundaries with someone that you love and care about. You want that person in your life but also firmer boundaries. In that scenario, you may have to communicate with the person so they can understand why you’re saying no. If they can’t understand why you’re saying no, they can’t change how they interact with you meaningfully.
On the other hand, if you don’t care about that, then it doesn’t matter and ‘no’ is perfectly adequate as a means of enforcing a boundary.
One quick thing: don’t be surprised if those people who are currently taking advantage of you and your desire to help disappear once you stop people pleasing. That’s normal.
3. You feel like you’re responsible for other people’s happiness.
How much responsibility do you actually have for the happiness of others?
The answer is zero.
You are not responsible for even the happiness of the people you feel closest to. You can and should contribute to their happiness. If you have a family or kids, you likely want them to feel safe, secure, and happy. Right? However, they may not be. You may provide anything and everything to try to make them happy, and they still aren’t happy.
In fact, it can be quite unhealthy to take responsibility for the happiness of others, particularly if they are a black hole for happiness. Some people want to be miserable, so they do everything they can to not try to improve their happiness. And some people are more than happy to drag you down with them.
Furthermore, feeling responsible for other people’s happiness makes you vulnerable to their maliciousness. That misplaced responsibility is why other people take advantage of you. They know you’ll put in the work no matter how they feel.
4. You feel like you’re the only one who can help someone.
You may feel you’re the only one who can truly help someone. But is that a real feeling? A feeling that is rooted in reality? The answer is no because only that person can truly help themselves. You can provide assistance. You can help guide them toward resources. But you can’t do the work for them.
But think about how difficult it is for people to raise themselves up or create their own happiness. It’s pretty hard for a lot of people. So how can you possibly be the only one who can help someone? You can’t be.
Besides, you may not have the knowledge or skills to help that person. Everyone in this world is walking around with trauma. Trauma, as defined by the American Psychological Association, is an event that causes extreme emotional distress. That includes things like being cheated on, getting divorced, losing a job or career, loved ones dying, and all kinds of other things that everyone experiences sooner or later.
You aren’t the only one that can help another person, even if it feels that way. In fact, by trying to be their sole source of salvation, you’re dooming yourself and the person you’re trying to help to fail. You can’t do the work for them.
5. You feel like you’re a bad person and not valuable if you’re not helping someone.
You may also know this as “martyrdom.” You may feel bad if you are not helping someone because you’ve tied your sense of identity into it.
This is a common thing for people with low self-esteem to do because they don’t find value in themselves. They believe they must do something for someone else to earn their value. You may want everyone to like you without considering whether or not that’s worth it.
But that’s not how healthy self-esteem works. A healthy self-esteem allows a person to know they have value by virtue of just existing. Of course, many people will argue this point. The argument is typically that feeling good about oneself is negative as it is some form of arrogance. It’s not.
Arrogance is to sit on a pedestal and look down on other people because you’re comparing yourself to them. People with healthy self-esteem don’t compare themselves to anyone because they don’t need to. They know they are valuable even if they aren’t earning their value, whether it’s through work or doing something for someone else.
You have value, and you’re not a bad person if you’re not helping someone.
6. You have difficulty setting boundaries with people who need your help.
Sometimes, others need your help, and you will want to give it. However, you need to have healthy boundaries to not take on too much of their emotional workload. That may prove to be a difficult thing for you.
A good way to prepare for this is to consider your boundaries before they need to come into play. What are you willing to do? How far are you willing to go? What is healthy and unhealthy behavior? What are you willing to tolerate to help the person?
And a reminder, you don’t want to do the work for them because you cannot. They can only do it for themselves.
You may find yourself feeling guilty or bad because you have these boundaries. These kinds of feelings are normal for people who have a difficult time watching someone suffer. You see someone suffering, and you want to alleviate their suffering. Right? That makes total sense. Still, you need to be able to sit with these negative emotions and not allow them to control your decisions.
Yes, you’re going to feel bad. However, every fiber of your being may be screaming at you to do something, step in, and take on more than what is healthy for you.
But you can’t, and you shouldn’t. And you must remind yourself of those boundaries when you feel that way.
7. You have a hard time accepting help from others because you’re used to being the helper.
People who are addicted to helping others often have a difficult time accepting help from others. They’re so used to doing things for others that receiving help is uncomfortable.
Sometimes this kind of behavior isn’t even about being kind. It’s more about being in control or being nice. But the difference between being nice and kind in this context is that kind isn’t always nice. Sometimes kindness is letting someone learn their lessons or telling them things they don’t want to hear.
Some people “help” because they are actually controlling and micromanaging. They see other people as incompetent, so they want to do it themselves, even if it’s something they have nothing to do with. The controller may also want to do everything themselves because they feel that the other person won’t work up to their standard, not realizing that an exceptional standard isn’t necessary for everyone.
On the other side of the coin, a person who may refuse to accept help from others may do so because the people around them are taking advantage of their kindness. In addition, the people around them purposefully pretend to be incompetent, so there are low expectations. Good examples of this are people who find washing machines or dishwashers “too complicated” to learn how to use. As if it’s difficult to turn two dials and push a button. This is known as weaponized incompetence and it’s quite common.
In the best-case scenario, people around you want to help you. Let them help you. Let them do the thing if they volunteer to do it. Let them help if they ask you if you need help. But do remember that they will do things their own way, and it might not be your way. That’s a balance you must strike to ease the burden on your shoulders.
8. You prioritize helping others over your own needs and desires.
Do you prioritize other people before caring for your needs and desires?
Or do you have strong self-care routines to protect and nurture your own health?
Unfortunately, many people pleasers think it’s admirable to sacrifice their health and well-being for others. Sure, sometimes that happens in life. But, sometimes, we have to put the people we love ahead of others.
However, it cannot be made into a regular habit. You must make time in your schedule to take care of yourself and start living for yourself, first and foremost. You will spend the rest of your life with yourself. People will come and go in ways that you may not expect. But you? You’ll always be there with yourself.
That is why it is so important to learn how to love and care for yourself just as much as you do other people. You have to be your priority if you want to stay well and healthy.
So, devote time out of your schedule to care for yourself, do things that make you happy, and try not to think about others for a little while. It’ll help you more than you realize.