The Addiction of Helping Others: 5 steps to help you become a mindful helper

I don’t want us to confuse being kind or polite with helping when it may not necessary. Holding a door open, grabbing an item on a top shelf for someone who can not reach, or putting a grocery cart back for someone. Those ways of helping are acts of kindness. 

Recognizing sometimes I help because it makes me feel good; not necessarily for the act of being supportive is important to changing my behavior.  When you recognize the need to help you can be more mindful in working on your helping behavior. When researching for this topic it became clear to me we are bombarded with memes, quotes, and articles on how helping makes us better. This is true for a person who can also use positive self care and healthy boundaries, but when we are codependent on the behavior it is negative to our mental health.

Consider this thought, if we help those who could do the task by themselves, aren’t we actually depriving them from the ability to learn they can persevere? I’m talking about the friend who asks you to help them with weight loss, then wants you to indulge in food that is not helping them. Wouldn’t you be better serving them by just spending time with them? Talking them through the difficulty by being supportive. These are people who may pushing your boundaries. 

This addiction is also known as codependency. You rely on helping to feel better. When we become dependent on anything it is bad for us. The sayings “too much of a good thing” and “everything in moderation” are excellent advice for a reason. They speak to the need of balance. Humans need balance in all areas of our life. Below are five steps to get you thinking about your need to help.

 

  1. Ask yourself, “Am I helping to feel good about myself?” This speaks to ego. We are fulfilling an internal need not truly acting in kindness.

  2. Am I causing harm as an end result of helping this person? This speaks to the fore mentioned weight loss buddy. If you go for ice cream that is a momentary act. In the end, it adds the the person’s personal struggle with eating.

  3. Do I take care of myself as well as I do others? Heal thy self caregiver, not just others. If you aren’t nourishing yourself, you are not doing anyone much good.

  4. Do you feel the person you are helping cannot exist without your help? I would suggest you journal or use a way to reflect on your need to help. Yes, some of us are in a position where a person does need our help. For example, a baby, a very ill friend or family member, elderly parents. This can also relate to animals. Do you feel the need to help every animal in need? 

  5. Does the person you are helping cross boundaries of your giving? Maybe you continue to help because you feel they are “sick” or “can’t help themselves.” Codependency causes us to allow the person in need to push our boundaries or we feel bad about ourselves.

Helping others is not a bad thing. When we are compromise our well being, our boundaries, our mental and physical health, then it is not healthy for us. There are healthy positive was to be the kind giving person. Can you be that for yourself too?