People who help others too much don’t stop until they become exhausted or ill. This can be a dangerous situation, and ironically, it’s not very helpful to the people in their lives.
Being helpful to others is a wonderful trait if it’s practiced in moderation and when appropriate. There are four problems to watch out for when your primary focus is on meeting other people’s needs.
1. You neglect your own needs and feelings, and end up exhausted or ill.
2. You become resentful—even though you enjoy helping—because you bend over backwards for other people too much.
3. By putting others first, you may unwittingly deprive them of their own autonomy, which can lead to your becoming a burden to them—the last thing that you intended. Although others may appreciate or even take advantage of your help, they prefer spending time with someone who takes care of their own needs first and doesn’t give unsolicited advice and help.
4. Some super-helpful personalities might be surprised to learn that their acts of rewarding or pampering loved ones may be taken as an insult to their capabilities or an intrusion into their personal space. The receiver of help may develop resentment because there’s an unintended implication that he or she is incompetent.
Excessively self-sacrificing people can grow and improve their lives by learning to acknowledge and respect their own needs first. When you feel compelled to offer someone a glass of water, consider whether you may actually be the one who is thirsty. Then take a moment to sense whether others are the types who would rather get water for themselves. If so, notice whether you can simply “be” without being of service to someone else.
Truly being of service is a beautiful way to bring light to people’s lives, particularly when it is done while honoring yourself and observing whether others would appreciate the help.
by Alison Poulsen, PhD