5 Reasons To Do Less Supporting
Sometimes the best way to help someone is to not answer their pleas.
By the time I turned 13, I was already on the internet devoting my time and energy to helping people little by little. After experiencing my own depression episode, I found solace in being able to help other people that were in similar spots to me. Whether it was with dating or emotional support, I was the type of guy people confided in and sought advice from and I was happy to deliver it.
As I continued to help more and more people, there was a sense of gratification from the work. I found joy in the fact I was needed and that I was valued. I even discovered more about myself and who I was.
I was naive and I didn’t want to admit that to myself.
I was an escapist and I refused to acknowledge it.
I was a hypocrite, refusing to take my own advice and strive to make a change in my life despite urging others as I grew older.
We like to think of helping other people as a selfless act. It’s a generally good thing to be doing. Time and time again, study after study finds helping people is a good idea to do.
You get a nice “helper’s high.”
It can instill other good habits such as this study that found students who were tutoring were more likely to spend more time on their own homework.
But it’s not always so black and white. After spending five years helping other people, there comes a point where you need to stop helping other people. That or make helping people something that you charge for.
There has to be more to it than doing it out of the kindness of your own heart.
Those Who Are Growing Are Getting Out There
The first piece of advice is focusing on doing less of “supporting other writers” in the various groups that are scattered on Facebook.
By all means, helping someone is great as you can tell from those studies mentioned above. But supporting other people means you are giving up progressing your own agenda in some way.
No matter how you cut it, when you are helping someone, you are dedicating your time to someone else. And while people will certainly be grateful and remember what you did, the reality is many of the relationships that you form with them won’t last.
Case and point: I have yet to come in contact with anyone that I helped out when I was 13. I’ll be 29 next week at the time of writing this.
I’ve also had an individual who has begged me for financial support on a number of occasions — which I did offer support. Even with the promise of paying me back for the money, he has yet to pay me any amount that I’ve sent him. He sees our relationship as purely transactional and relies on my empathy to give him money. I’ve stopped talking with him.
Instead of getting out there and supporting so much, it’s worth considering what you are getting out of it. And also to redefine your way of helping other people.
Instead of making tonnes of posts and being super active in comments of Facebook Medium support groups, maybe go out and write.
Instead of donating money to a noble cause, consider whether you really need the ego boost of donating to someone you will never meet and never get to know or truly care for deep down.
In the end, there are better ways for you to be growing than by helping other people. That’s not to say you need to be selfish and keep everything a secret, but there comes a point where you need to stop helping and start doing and hoping others will follow.
Helping Grows Reliance
Whenever you go to a park or any place with wildlife, there is a general rule that you never feed the wildlife.
While we think it’s nice and helpful that we are offering food and a bit of care to these animals, animals aren’t as intelligent as us and what we are doing is instilling bad habits.
An animal survives by putting in the work of providing their own food supply that can keep them going for days, months, and years. Since they’re not as intelligent as humans, they have a very one-track mind.
As soon as that one-track mind gets disrupted — say by a person offering an animal food — that animal’s life is going to take a turn for the worse.
By offering food to the animal, you are instilling in the animal’s mind that they don’t need to hunt or forage any longer and that you’ll be there to provide them with food every single day.
Even if you are feeding wild animals natural food, they still get into their head that people will provide them with food at a given time if they appear at that spot.
Why I bring up wild animal behaviour is that it’s not so different from our own reliance.
For example, ever since this pandemic, governments have been rolling out financial stimulus packages to help keep people financially stable. Where I live in Canada, it’s very generous and is something that I’ve been leveraging a lot on.
While I’m happy that it’s helped me out, I’ve spent the past few months reminding myself that I can’t afford to slack off. That I have to continue working.
The fact I didn’t work as much in the previous months was a sign that my financial problems were an afterthought. All I had to do was claim my government cheque and not work as hard.
Instead of doing that, I should’ve done what I have been doing now: training myself to be not as reliant and grow my income back up to where it was before.
The reason I do that is that I know the downside of resiliency.
What happens if something you rely on goes under or stops happening?
It can be hard for people to adapt to those changes. And while Canada still has other methods of funding and support Canadians at the moment, people still have to settle with the fact that they need to work. They need to grow and use the support they have to make something from it.
I know wildlife can’t do that, but humans can.
Your Returns Won’t Be Big & Will Diminish
One thing that I’ve learned from helping people is that we are all selfish. There is always something to be gained by doing something from the kindness of our own heart.
There is truly no such thing as an act of kindness that is entirely one-sided for the person who needs support.
We donate to charity to support a cause and feed children in third-world countries. Even at the loss of money, there is an emotional boost we by doing this. That is what fueled our actions in the first place.
But the more that you donate, the less of a return that you’ll be getting overall.
The individual that I’m not speaking to anymore is a good example. Every time I kept giving him money, the more reluctant I felt. Even with him promising me he’d pay me back, I knew deep down he wouldn’t.
By the same aspect, if you’re donating to a charity, you’re not going to be getting larger returns from it. If you’ve donated once, you probably won’t donate a second time.
It reminds me of a comic strip I saw a long time ago about a woman refusing to donate to a charity. She was talking to a middle-eastern child who was asking for a donation. The reason:
“I’ve already shared the charity’s organization page and used the campaign’s hashtag on Facebook.”
We’re all selfish creatures and that shouldn’t be seen as a bad thing. Once you poured enough time and effort into someone and you don’t see results, you move on. You maybe keep the bridge open a bit by occasionally checking in on the person and keeping tabs, but that’s it.
Once you stop gaining, you move on.
That’s not to say to never offer help. But it’s important to keep an open mind that many people look to use people for their benefit. Only a small amount will want to form genuine connections.
People Will Expect Certain Things From You
Along the same lines as reliance on people or programs, people also get the idea that you won’t change. That as you offer help, it’s always assumed you’ll be helping in whatever someone needs.
Going back to the individual that has asked me for money on several occasions, he kept coming back because he figured I was the most convenient source. This is despite the fact that prior to our conversations this year, he was getting by for the past three or four years without any of my support.
Either he was relying on someone else or he’s made mistakes and refuses to learn or think of ways out beyond asking for money.
Another example of this stems from a man — Carthage Buckley — who had someone request he find quotes from five books and to send them over free of charge. All because Buckley posted an article with some quotes that this individual apparently liked.
While these quotes weren’t part of any books, there was clearly a level of expectations that since the emailer asked nicely, Buckley would immediately do whatever the emailer asked of him.
While this is a minor thing, this sort of behaviour happens all the time. We all have some level of expectation that people would come to our aid.
To many people, it’s easier and comforting to think someone else will pick up the slack in some areas no matter the cost so they can afford to do it. It’s the same kind of logic as that one group member in a group project who does next to nothing and expects to get the same amount of credit as everyone else.
While helping does a lot of good, it can create those expectations or impressions that people use whenever it’s convenient for them. It creates a distorted view of the person and it often leaves people more hurt depending on the relationship.
That’s not to say to never help people, but that it’s important we filter our help and offer as much as the situation demands of it. If it takes you several hours to help someone out, it’s probably not worth it if all you’re gaining is a feel-good feeling.
Help May Not Even Be Warranted
When a person offers to help someone, there are many things that are set in motion. From my own experiences, one emotion that I recall the most is pride.
I said before that I wanted to be useful to people, to feel needed. In a sense, that made me proud of who I was. I was happy to offer help and support to people no matter what.
But as I’ve grown older and looked at my overall behaviour, I’ve come to learn that help isn’t always warranted. As much as people seek help, there are some cases where help isn’t necessary and that helping in those situations is more presumptuous than being helpful.
Take instances of mental illness. While this is a serious issue that should be addressed, helping those in those situations is a mixed bag when you think about it. If you know someone close to you that’s suffering you may feel the urge to offer advice.
But as I’ve talked with those who do suffer from mental illness time and time again, they’re either tired of hearing about the advice or get frustrated about it.
Just because something is wrong in your own eyes doesn’t mean you have the right or the obligation to get into someone’s life and offer advice or try to “fix” them.
The reason people think they need to fix other people boils down to pride.
It’s commendable to show concern, but not every person wants or needs the help that’s offered. There are things in life that one has to do on their own.
Help, But Be Mindful
After years of writing advice-type articles and helping those who needed someone to confide in, I’ve come to accept that helping people out, and the degree of help is a mixed bag.
By all means, we should be helping someone out in certain circumstances. But in some circumstances, it’s better to not offer a helping hand. Sometimes our version of helping someone doesn’t always help but rather hinders a person’s ability to grow and rely on themselves.
Sometimes the best way to help people is for them to go through the rough stuff of life. It may seem cold, but the more you think about it, the more you start to realize it can be just as kind of a gesture as lending a helping hand.