Being there for others
One of the most important things that I've learned in my recovery from addiction is that I need to be there for others. Believe it or not, it gave me purpose in my life. Everyone's always searching for meaning and purpose, but being of service to others is the answer that I found. The problem is that I'm also a people pleaser and a co-dependent. My feelings get hurt when people don't let me help them. It hurts my pride and ego, and I lose my purpose. So what am I supposed to do?
It All Stems from My Childhood
Some people may be able to relate to this and others may not. The goal is to get you thinking about why you may react certain ways to different situation. Self-discovery is one of the most important things we can do as human beings. The more we know about ourselves means that we can begin working on our personal character defects.
It turns out that my subconscious need to help people stems from my childhood. I had an alcoholic mother who I loved with all of my heart, but I couldn't help her. As I grew older, I helped as many people as I could, but then my addiction got in the way. Now that I'm sober, I still feel the need to help every person that I can regardless of my personal wellbeing. I feel like I'm not good enough or powerless when I'm unable to help someone or they won't allow me to help them.
Some People Just Need Space
We have less control in this world than we'd ever like to admit. Although we may believe that we have the healing words to help people, sometimes they don't want the help and we couldn't provide it if we wanted to. For example, when someone loses a loved one, there's not much that we can say or do. If the person we're trying to help turns us down, we need to learn how to respect that.
I've found that when I keep trying to help someone who doesn't want to be helped that I'm being selfish and self-seeking. I have to begin to ask myself "Why are you so insistent on helping this person?" Am I looking for a sense of accomplishment when I think that I resolved their problem? Do I want someone to be grateful for my assistance? Is their sadness or stress affecting my life, which causes me to think that fixing them will fix my own issues?
It's difficult to think that you might have the wrong intentions, but it's important to recognize them in order to respect someone else's boundaries and wishes. We must always think about what are motives are in any given situation. When our motives are pure and the person still doesn't want our help, that's alright. What I've learned is that the best thing I can do is simply let the person know that I'm sorry for what they're going through, and I'm here if they ever want to open up.
You'd be surprised at how often that person will come back and need a shoulder to cry on. They're just like you and me. Sometimes they just need a day to themselves, or sometimes it may take longer than that. When it starts hurting enough and they can no longer stay in their own head, they may turn to you for the help that you originally offered.
My Opinion Isn't Always Helpful
Sometimes we feel like we have the right answers for someone when they're having difficulties in life. They may believe that they're friends or family are being mean and not caring about how they feel, but the reality is that it may be their fault. A friend told me a story about this exact situation, and he ended up with a hot cup of coffee thrown on him.
Basically, someone came to him explaining how it seemed like the whole world was against her. People are talking about her behind her back and confronting her regularly. He thought he'd be helpful by letter her know his thoughts. "Have you ever thought that maybe you're the problem?" he said to her. This lead to her throwing coffee all over him, and he was completely shocked.
Maybe he was right, and maybe that's exactly what she needed to hear, but there's a right and a wrong way to go about this. Sometimes my ego tells me I have the answers for everyone's problems, and I need to share my opinion with them because I can help them, but as you can see that doesn't always work. I too had friends and family who I was brutally honest with, but all I did was make them angry.
Someone gave me the best advice I've ever received about helping others with my opinion. I ask their opinion first. "Would you like my opinion?" Those five little words can help you avoid catastrophe when being there for someone else. Not only am I getting their opinion, but now they're prepared for any answer that may come out of my mouth, and it may be one they don't want to hear. The point is that I'm not forcing it on them. Sometimes they tell me they don't want my opinion, and that's perfectly fine because they know that I extended the offer.
How to be of Service to Others
As mentioned above, sometimes we're completely powerless, and there's nothing that we can do or say to help someone we care about. We need to empathize with them and let them know that we're sorry for their circumstances. Ask them if there's anything you can do to help if you're at a loss because maybe there is something you can do that you didn't know would be helpful. Most of all, just let them know that you'll be there for them because you care about their well-being.