As human beings we are social creatures, and our interaction and connection with others is a vital part of our way of being. However, in our interactions with others we often get into the role of helping people, and whilst this is a good thing at first glance, it can also bring its own problems.
The main time that helping others can be problematic is when assisting someone else results in us being over-burdened ourselves, sometimes to the detriment of our own well-being. No one minds adding 15 minutes onto their journey to help a friend who needs a lift; or having a few hours less leisure time at the weekend in order to help a sister who needs her CV updated; or staying up late to cook up a batch of meals for the freezer for a family who has lost a loved one. These small acts of kindness are the type of things that we do with pleasure, knowing that we can make a difference to the life of someone we care about by giving our time or assistance.
But what about when you give in to sibling pressure and agree to host the huge family get together at your house because everyone else’s house is too small, and ‘no one wants to go to a hotel’? So you end up run ragged, exhausted and frazzled after all the work involved. What about when you agree to get a puppy because ‘everyone wants one’ and ‘we’ll take care of it’, only to find that on top of all your other daily tasks you now find yourself picking up poo, walking Rover in the rain morning and night, and hoovering twice a day? What about when you succumb to expectations and agree to act as Chairperson/ Secretary/ Treasurer of the school/ neighbourhood/ sports committee for the year, only to find that your bedtime is getting later and later because you cannot fit in the work involved any other time, but it still needs to be done.
This is not about abstaining from responsibility or from helping others or from volunteering. It is about stopping for five minutes and taking the time out to think in peace and quiet about what taking on this new task will do to you – before you say yes to it. You know that it will help the family/ school/ neighbourhood/ Rover, etc. - but what will it do to you?
  • Do you actually have the time/ energy for this?
  • Can you genuinely fit it in to your schedule?
  • What would need to be juggled/ dropped if you take this on?
In other words, it is about figuring out whether in saying yes to someone else, you actually say no to yourself. No to having enough energy; no to getting enough sleep; no to being able to make that evening walk with your friend that is so good for you both physically and mentally.
Stop and think about it and, if upon thinking you find that actually your schedule is already groaning at the seams and creaking under the weight of your ‘To Do’ list, then consider saying no to someone else and saying yes to yourself. Consider offering an alternative suggestion, one that will see the job get done without you ending up an exhausted, resentful mess at the end of it. Consider saying that of course the family gathering can be held at your house, but that you need people to bring a selection of starters, main courses and desserts. Consider taking the children to help out at a rescue centre where they can help dogs who need walking and affection. Consider saying that it does not suit you this year but that you would be happy to plan ahead and take on the Chairperson role next year. Consider saying yes to yourself.
In a way, it is like the oxygen mask on the airplane – the crew always tells you to put your own mask on first. Think of life as being like a plane journey, and make sure that you have your own mask on first; that way you can be the best help for yourself and also for others.
Final Thought
“Remember, if you ever need a helping hand you’ll find one at the end of your arm. As you grow older you will discover that you have two hands. One for helping yourself, the other for helping others” ~ Audrey Hepburn.
Performance and Life Coach