One of the more admirable traits about us humans is our willingness to help others. This willingness is doubled when we’re helping our friends and loved ones and some people will give all they can to help those they love. These people, whom I’ll call ‘helpers’ for this article, will often put great importance on being available for those that they care about and helping them in any way to the best of their ability. However, these same people often don’t reach out for the same help they readily provide. Why is that, you may ask? Simply put, many of them don’t want to be a burden on others even though if someone were to ask the same of them, they would say it’s no problem at all or not a bother in any fashion.
Asking for the same help you provide can be very scary. Firstly, because you’re used to being strong and not letting your own troubles show. Secondly, you know how much effort goes into being there for someone who needs it. Vulnerability can be a daunting thing to approach or even engage in, but helpers have a particularly unique perspective on vulnerability. They know how someone feels when they help someone who’s vulnerable and, thus, they understand what someone thinks when helping another. That can help to remove some of the nerves of asking for help of their own, because they know how kindness and empathy feels.
Additionally, plenty of helpers may express the desire to not be a ‘burden’ on others with their own problems and issues. They might say that people live their own lives, that their friends are too busy for them, or that they’ve gotten through things before without help so why should now be any different. On and on helpers can find reasons not to open up to others but, if the roles were reversed, no matter how busy they may have been they’d always find time or a means to help those that ask for it and be there for them when they do open up. One of the simplest facts is that helpers find it much easier to help others rather than themselves when if any other person presented themselves with their problem, they’d be one of the first to encourage them to get any help they needed. Thus, one of the first – and perhaps one of the more difficult – processes or things that helpers need to do is to treat themselves with the same grace they give others.
Above all, it’s important for helpers to engage in self-care and self-love. The same kindness they offer others and the same dedication they provide should also be turned inward. Take time to relax, engage in something you enjoy, and don’t be afraid to rely on friends and family like they’ve relied on you. If that still feels too daunting, or you just can’t talk to your friends for one reason or another, journaling can provide a safe burden-free place to express what you’re feeling. In addition to that, it also gives you a chance to refine your thoughts and potentially practice what you’d like to say to your loved ones or those you trust, so that way when you are ready to engage with others you have a pseudo-script ready.
Finally, don’t be afraid to reach out for professional help either. Doctors, mental health professionals, and those in fields focusing on human services are often helpers themselves, each willing and eager to help as they can and are able. Just as helpers aid others, they need to also be ready to aid themselves with the same gusto and kindness. After all, it’s difficult to help others when you need help yourself.
By Jessica Seney, MHC Intern