The Hindrance of Over-Helping

If you are like me, you enjoy helping other people.

As a young boy I was told to ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you’. This advice always made sense in my mind and heart, and I have lived by this maxim most of my adult life.

You were likely told something similar or have at least heard a variation of this phrase. I’ve also heard it called the ‘Golden Rule‘ or the ‘Law of Reciprocity’ in various self-help books and in countless motivational speeches.

In my experience, this is a good rule to live by, with some caveats.

As a good person, you get a warm, fuzzy feeling whenever you help somebody else. It is a wonderful experience to do something simply because you want to help. The person is grateful and the world is a better place.

However I have learned that this desire to help others can sometimes become a hindrance, especially if you take it too far.

In my desire to be an altruistic person, I have noticed something curious. Whenever I spend a lot of my energy or time trying to help others, my own progress and development suffers.

When I fall into the habit of ‘over-helping’ I have less energy to do what is important to me, to work on my goals and improve my own quality of life. Instead of meeting my needs, I am filling a role of being the ‘good person’ in the lives of those I care about.

This looks great on the outside, but starts to feel exhausting on the inside.

What is needed is a balance of altruism and ambition. You need a balance of helping others and helping yourself.

Consider this: the next time you are helping another person, also ask yourself how this ‘helping’ will affect you. Will you find yourself somehow disadvantaged, or depleted if you expend too much effort?

If the answer is no, then go ahead and help.
If the answer is yes or maybe, then consider how you can help in a lesser way. Or not at all.

Very often the desire to help can become a distraction from improving your own life position. The feeling of doing good can start to take over your own needs for a better quality of life, or achieving a goal that is important to you.

When the scales tip too far towards altruism, I suggest being more focussed on your own development and improving your own life first. Of course, when you feel you have reached a point of reasonable success and accomplishment, then you can turn your focus to helping others.

One simple way to stop ‘over-helping’ others is to stop offering help so readily. I have noticed that in my desire to be a good person I am frequently putting offers out there to help.

Instead of doing this every time, let other people ask you.

You might be surprised how often people will handle things themselves if you stop offering to help.

Don’t get me wrong: I believe in the value of altruism, of supporting and building other people up.

However I have also seen how ‘over-helping’ can become an addiction, a need to be so focused on others that it can distract or delay you living your best life.

In my experience, I have seen that focusing equally on yourself and others is a healthy approach to life.

Altruism and ambition go hand in hand to make the world a better place.

4 thoughts on “The Hindrance of Over-Helping

  1. Yes I totally agree because I suffer from this addiction however as long as i have been experiencing this condition (and at after 4years caring more about family than myself) I have finally decided to get my life back and focus more on me without guilt

    1. Thanks for sharing Gerard, I have found it is always a balance. I think some people fall into over-helping out of necessity, and others it becomes almost an addiction or distraction from their own lives. It’s great to hear that you are recognizing it and re-focusing on yourself. – DMS

  2. Thank you. I’m sure I’m not the only person who has expressed gratitude for the writings you share. I connect with your message and agree. Still, I find a way to take in more after reading your perspective and apply it to my life in a new way.

    “Over helping” was the anthem for my spring, summer, autumn…life :). It took a dark and scary experience to realize I need to help myself first, and without feelings of guilt. I’m still learning.

    Thanks for your thoughts on what I personally consider to be an important topic.

    1. Thank you for sharing that Jewell, everything I write is almost a memo to myself as much as I am sharing it. I have certainly been through the ringer myself by over-helping others, and am sorry to hear you had to learn the lesson the hard way. I hope that the time moving forward for you is much more positive and fruitful. Thank again for your kind words and encouragement on my writing! It truly means a lot to me 🙂 – DMS

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