I love this question. I feel like it’s always coming up - at home, at work, in parenting, and really, maintaining any relationship. We often attribute the need to be helpful to women, but I see this conundrum hitting men too.

We all want to be helpful. Because we all want to be liked. (unless you’re a total a-hole)

So our first instinct is to be helpful at all costs without consideration for what it’s costing us.

  • You want your kid to feel secure and attached so you co-sleep for 4 years…without considering the cost to your health and wellness.
  • You want your client to like you and refer you to their colleagues so you say yes to every request regardless if it’s in your contract…without considering how this lowers your overall profit, time management, and peace of mind.
  • You don’t want to stress out your partner so you keep your list of worries to yourself…without considering how this may be impacting your mental health.

These examples all take “being helpful” to the extreme. And when it’s extreme, it’s not really helpful. It doesn’t actually help the person you’re trying to help, because it’s enabling, stomping all over your boundaries and needs, and inevitably will cause resentment towards the person you were trying to help in order to foster goodwill. This effectively ruins what you were trying to achieve by being helpful in the first place.

The good news is you can be helpful AND maintain your boundaries.

The first part starts the same - recognize what you want to do to be helpful.

Then consider how this act will impact you and ask yourself, “Is it worth it?”.

Or if that doesn’t work for you, simply be helpful to yourself first. If you were trying to be helpful to a clone of you, get that clone of you to like you, do whatever it is that clone needs first.

Then take care of everyone else.

I know that’s a really long way of saying “Put yourself first”, but sometimes we need to hear it. ;)