Does Helping Actually Hurt?
Chances are you’re a sibling, a parent, a cousin, a friend or a significant other; these titles are symbols of a loving attachment to another person and chances are you would do absolutely anything for them. The territory comes with a protective nature and an overwhelming desire to lend a helping hand; that’s what love is right?
I’ve learnt, being on both sides of the spectrum, how that undying need to help the ones we love actually might end up hurting them more than anything.
Growing up my parents were probably just like yours, loving people there to pick us up when we fell, there to make sure we didn’t make the same mistakes they did once upon a time. Whenever they saw the potential for any type of danger, protective mode would kick in and before we could trip and scrape our knees, both literally and figuratively, they’d jump in and save the day.
Looking back, going from childhood to my early twenties, a subconscious dependence on my parents was definitely created, and I was sheltered in a way because I never really had the opportunity to fall all that much. It almost created a bubble around me and I ended up burdening my parents, taking advantage of a situation because I didn’t know any better.
The truth is my parents were doing the best they could, if you were about to watch a train wreck happen, you’d try to avoid it, right? However doing so prevented the ever so important learning which comes from mistakes, and the more mishaps we deal with the stronger we are. Dealing with pressures of social settings or financial responsibility weren’t in my toolbox, and they hit me in the face once I was out on my own.
On the other side of the table I’ve been the overprotective, micromanaging guy as well, and I confused it with being nice. For a long time and without any right, I gave 3rd party advice and took responsibility for a lot of people.
When I took it upon myself to go above and beyond to help, I ended up over committing and getting stuck in certain situations, situations I later felt bad bringing up or dealing with altogether. Being the nice guy meant I’d just let it slide, feeling sorry and taking it upon myself to dictate whether or not I thought someone could fend for themselves. What really ended up happening was I created an atmosphere where people depended on me, who only took advantage of me because I gave them no other choice.
The responsibility I put upon myself to fend for other people created the same bubble for them as my parents created for me. Just like the people I was trying to “help”, what I really did was prevent them from living, making mistakes or learning. I created a world where they weren’t able to see their true potential because I was living for them.
Does that sound like helping?
I only came to the realization when I spread myself much too thin emotionally and financially. I realized I had taken it upon myself to carry people who were perfectly capable of walking. Were there terribly awkward conversations while bursting the bubble? Of course. Just like me, it was tough to believe I was in the bubble, however just like me it was the best thing to ever happen.
I think the most important lesson I’ve learnt in the past few years is for better or for worse, I just have to let things happen, for myself and for others. Preventing people from catastrophe is only prolonging the inevitable, and living for them only means burdening myself and preventing them from growing. I wouldn’t be where I am if I didn’t make so many critical mistakes.
When my father passed away and I was given the freedom to crash and burn at my own free will, it was only a matter of time until I figured out how to firefight. I believe our true colors come out only when we’re put in sink or swim situations, and we’re survivors, and given the opportunity we will survive. If we prevent the loved ones around us from ever being faced with those types of situations then they’ll never have the opportunity to unravel their true potential. Protecting them from life will only prevent them from life.
I’ve fallen flat on my face more times than I like to admit, consequently I rarely fall in the same spot. The more times I fall the better I’ll know the road and the less I’ll have to depend on someone else.
I have wonderful relationships with the people I love most, and I have absolute confidence they can make incredible decisions and accomplish anything they put their minds to. Me helping is the opposite of what they need.