In my follow-up podcast to May’s topic of “The Gift of Time,” I talk about valuing your own time. This topic is for those who are a “helper” type, and may want to work on how you might manage yourself and your time, when you want to or are tempted to help those who don’t ask for help, and may not want it! My dear friend and former graduate student Linda McShan allows me to muse for an hour or more from her podcast headquarters in downtown Los Angeles, and keeps us connected as we continue on our journeys, having met in 2017 in my “non-profit marketing” course at the University of LaVerne, in LaVerne, California. [Podcast link here.]
This topic today is really from the lens of how to value your time when you are a “helper” type, or when you may have recognized and are trying to stop tendencies of “co-dependency.” I had to pick a short topic title, so it became “Valuing Your Time.” But, in truth, it could have had a much longer and more complex subtitle, that would go something like: “how to love and be interdependent with another, without becoming or acting ‘co-dependent.’”
I’m talking about it, like I often do, from my own lens and life’s lessons.
As a life coach, I HAVE been able to help some, and, indeed, clients have shared ways I have helped them get unstuck...I may have helped them have an “aha moment”…or some other breakthrough they valued—just by listening, asking reflective questions, and being fully present with their thought processes in a dedicated hour that we both carve out of our lives to do just that.
Interestingly, though, in my own life experience, I have found very often that “trying to help” others—when you think you know a way to help, or might have the time, or even just want to listen and be a sounding board or a friend—can backfire on you.
WHEN TRYING TO HELP HURTS
Let’s talk a minute about the HELPER TYPE. If you are the “helper” type, as many of us are, you may look like this: you are articulate, studied, thoughtful, caring, and well-intentioned. AND SOMETIMES your most generous and heartfelt expression of time—giving freely to others from your heart, or your life’s well of knowledge and experiences---can HURT OTHERS and can HURT YOU.
What happens when…
You are trying to help another person, but your help may be perceived as an intrusion?
Or, your help is perceived as being “controlling?”
Or, what if you receive the message that your “helping” is simply a distraction tactic you engage in, to avoid your own need to “focus on yourself?”
Yikes! How does something like a gift of your time, knowledge, and experience turn into something that is seen as not only unwanted and unhelpful, but can perhaps even “choke the life out of” your relationship with that person? AND, can even be harmful to YOU??
BE CLEAR ABOUT THE RELATIONSHIP TERMS
I wear lots of hats, I play various roles in life.
In my realm as a “coach,” a coach is hired by someone when they want help. The client seeks the coach because they believe that coach is skilled to help them. That’s a professional contract, a two-way agreement. But, the client has invited you into their realm, and is open to your insights, questions, life experiences…and, they believe they can trust you. AND, there is a modicum of respect granted to you as a helper…because you have somehow earned the right to enter that space, as a professional.
But what happens when we—those helpers and coaches in the world—try to help a loved one, a family member, a friend, our child? These are relationships where we have to be careful to not overstep our boundaries, to not provide “unwanted” help…hey, they’re NOT paying for it. So, watch which hat you are wearing!
Some friends invite us in, sure…we have a free exchange, and there can be profound support and appreciation one to another. My women friends and I have this, and help one another this way often.
But sometimes, the hardest thing to do is to NOT OFFER PERSPECTIVES when you see someone suffering that you think you can help.
Do any of these sound familiar?
“I don’t want your help!”
“I don’t need you!”
“I’m not a project!”
“You do you.”
“Leave me alone.”
“Stop trying to help. You’re just making it worse!”
“You just don’t understand.”
“You really don’t get me!”
Many times our fellow human beings just want to be listened to, and loved, in the mess. You can love people. But, you can’t “fix them.” You may also be misguided in your belief that you can grow with someone, by being their partner or personal aide in some mutual growth.
How do you know if you are helping…or hurting?
(Or 1 + 1 = discord, not unity!)
Maybe you are in a love relationship with someone, and you think that you have entered into a relationship of mutual growth. You are thinking your partner is wanting to grow, and you want to grow, and you each may think that you can help one another grow together. In some relationships, this is a tacit understanding. In other relationships it is discussed. In some relationships, because it is neither understood nor discussed, you can be at cross purposes…missing one another’s intent and interests, and otherwise just mucking up the works!
If this is the case, what signs do you need to watch for, if you are “in it” to grow, but the commitment is not there for the other person, in the same way?
What if you have misread the intention of your mutual attraction? What if the actual terms of the relationship, the reality of it, don’t match what you “thought” it was? What if your partner is not willing to discuss it?
WHAT YOU SHOULD LOOK FOR:
1. The person on the other side is clear about WANTING TO GROW.
2. That person has expressed a clear AREA OF NEED.
3. That person HAS ASKED FOR HELP and BELIEVES THAT YOU CAN HELP.
4. That person HAS SKILLS or is willing to develop them (and potentially get additional education or professional assistance) in order to grow.
Now, let’s look INSIDE.
Imagine you are THE PERSON WHO IS STUCK…you have a lesson or skills to learn, and to grow from:
1. You may not be aware that you NEED TO GROW.
2. You may think you DON’T NEED to grow.
3. You may NOT be interested in RISKING what it might take to grow, OR may even take steps to PRESERVE YOUR STATUS QUO. (This may not be a conscious choice; there can be unconscious dynamics at work, too!)
4. You may not have the requisite SKILLS you need in order to grow, but may be willing to acquire them, with help.
Regardless of which side of the relationship equation you are on, the only side that you can influence or take action on, really is yours. You need to “do you.”
LET THE OTHER PERSON DO THEIR OWN WORK, THEIR WAY
So, what the helper person needs to learn about this is…step back and let the other person—in this case, your beloved—do their own work.
In truth, your beloved needs to be the expert of their own life, and own it. They need to take responsibility for their own growth.
And, you have to be able to trust them and believe them when they say: “Oh, I see my problem. And now I see steps to my solutions.” If they ask for your help, great. If they don’t, back off.
If you are a helper type, you can’t care more about someone else’s problem (or perceived need for growth) than they do. And, it’s important to remember that and to resist the urge to jump in.
You have to step back. And stop. And let them experience the consequences and conditions of their own actions…or inaction.
These lessons are of course tied to our need as human beings to set healthy boundaries.
When someone says: “You do you. And I’ll do me,” honor that.
When someone says, “Stop. I don’t need your help,” you stop.
When someone says, “I don’t believe you can help me,” don’t see this as a rejection, but believe them. Honor their wishes and boundaries.
To a helper (sometimes co-dependent but not always), such words may sting. Just because someone sets a hard line doesn’t mean they don’t love you or want you in their life. It doesn’t mean that they don’t value you. But it does mean that they really don’t want you to overstep what they see as not only their responsibility, but their expertise. They are, afterall, masters of their own destiny. Captains of their own ship. Engineers of their own train wreck, lol!
It is very hard for helpers to remember this, and to be able to not only guard your time, but to guard your heart.
A parting thought for my fellow helpers out there.
VALUE YOU, FIRST: MAYBE EVEN ‘RECEIVE’ HELP
Why don’t you value your time more? Why DON’T you care about yourself MORE?
1. Be careful to share your gifts, first, with a person who can appreciate them.
2. Before you share, assess if the person is one who may be able to reciprocate. Growth is a two-way street. You don’t want to enter into a relationship where the other person is unable or unwilling to grow and to also help you grow, too.
3. Step back when it’s helpful to you.
And finally, think on this:
How wonderful is it…
…when you finally open yourself up, and allow others to help heal and help your heart and soul?
How wonderful is it…
…when you stop pouring yourself out, and depleting your own well…and you let someone you trust and admire pour into yours?
So, in essence, this topic today isn’t really about valuing your time. It’s about valuing you. You are your most precious asset. Value yourself, and your time and your self by doing what brings you joy. Don’t overshare your gifts. Also, be aware of and learn to limit your participation in a relationship that is too one-sided.
When someone has told you “no,” even if their own life would have benefited greatly by saying “yes” to your gifts and contributions to their life, take it upon yourself as a new mission to let that relationship go. Accept the experience as a chance to learn. Take those jabs in life—these can hurt a lot—and get back into the arena. Each jab teaches you more about you, and about life. You may never understand someone else’s psyche, or why they did what they did, and certainly, don’t waste your time trying to figure it out: that’s a fruitless exercise, especially when the other person probably doesn’t know either.
Just keep rolling with the punches.
Keep being you. And keep growing.
Like my dear colleague and friend, Linda McShan says: “When YOU change, IT changes.”