Select Page

Breaking The ‘Helper’ Habit

If you have a pattern of feeling taken advantage of and suppressing your own needs, expectations, desires, feelings and opinions because you have a ‘Helper Habit’, it’s important to address this combination of people pleasing and codependency.

Helping is about the act of making it easier for someone to do something or improving a situation or problem.

When you have an unhealthy habit of helping, you need to feel needed to feel of value. This means that via your helping, you can end up enabling people who really need to be left to their own devices so that they can stand on their own two feet and experience the natural consequences of their actions and mentality.

When you set yourself up to feel taken advantage of, you’re inadvertently falling into the trap of being a martyr.

You’re allowing your own agenda with helping to blind you, and because this is a situation that you’ve been in numerous times, and yet you’re still choosing to pursue this line of behaviour and thinking, you are gaining some form of benefit from feeling ill done by. Even if it’s as simple as not having to change your behaviour or look too closely at your motives, you are experiencing a payoff.

If it feels bad when you help, it’s not as ‘helpful’ as you intend. If you wouldn’t give the help if you didn’t think that there was a perceived potential reward for doing so, stop what you’re doing.

It’s critical to recognise that you are the one who makes a choice to help. Irrespective of whatever else is going on, by addressing the thinking and behaviour attached to your ‘helping’ situations, you can stop feeling like you do.

However upset you may feel, hard as it may be to hear, you’re not as ‘owed’ by others as you think. Unless you entered into an explicit agreement where what you wanted was explicitly communicated, you’re not owed in the way that you perceive you to be. In their eyes, they may not be thinking of things in terms of you feeling ‘owed’ so they may feel that they’ve shown more than enough gratitude (even if they haven’t), or that you are actually helping and giving in the sense of doing it because you want to.

Sometimes we forget that while we do things that we don’t want to because we think it will net us approval, other people don’t do anything that they don’t want to do, even if it means you’ll be disappointed in them.
They may feel more disappointed in themselves if they were to ‘bend’, or they’re just very clear on who they are and their boundaries.

When you need to feel needed in order to feel of value, you make yourself indispensable or specifically attach yourself to people and situations that give you a ’cause’, and yes, sometimes you cross boundaries by offering or even imposing unsolicited help or even by seeing your help as love which can be smothering and enabling.

You feel liked and loved when you’re needed. You feel comfortable around perceived ‘necessity’, and unfortunately, it means that you feel a little too comfortable around ‘pity’ – having sympathetic concern for the ‘misfortune’ of others under your definition of it, which may not actually be misfortune in the sense of actually requiring pity.

You might identify with their pain or situation because you’ve experienced it and/or are familiar with it from your childhood but whatever it is that grabs you, it has to give you a purpose due to it presenting an opportunity for you to be needed.

The problem with having a Helper Habit is that when you cross your own line, never mind that of others, you are making it easier for somebody for all of the wrong reasons by removing their responsibility. If you’re making you the external solution to problems that someone needs to solve for themselves, you’re not actually improving the situation or the problem either.

There are all sorts of reasons why you might be ‘helping’ including growing up around parents or caregivers with addictions and essentially missing out on your childhood by feeling like you had to take on problems and adult responsibilities. It might be because you learned as a child that you could fly under the radar and gain approval by being of help to those around you, or it might simply be that you’re so uncertain of your worth that it’s almost inconceivable that you could be liked and loved without having to be of ‘use’ to somebody.

You’re very good at being busy and identifying problems. You might like to take on projects and ’causes’, but if you’re very honest with you, whatever your reasons are for helping as a form of people pleasing, you’re not very happy or fulfilled.

Anything on the course about responsibility, assertiveness, codependency, changing your associations and basically adapting your habits pertains to you breaking the Helper Habit, but here are some extra tips:

1. Go on a Helping Diet for 30 days so you can observe your behaviour, thoughts, feelings and situations. Use a Feelings Diary or similar to keep track. Don’t offer help and if asked to help, don’t agree to it immediately. Consider the request and if it matches previously unhealthy behaviour, decline. If it doesn’t and you can do it without expectation of a reward/approval, and it doesn’t involve enabling their own unhealthy habits, agree to help if it’s what you want to do.

2. Which areas of your own life do you need help in? Taking the kind of skills and mentality that apply to others, imagine that someone like you came to you for help, what would you suggest that they do? Bearing in mind how helpful you like to be, I doubt you’d be cussing them, and you would be compassionate in ordinary circumstances, sometimes too much so, hence it’s time to find ways to be productive in your life.

3. If you’re trying to right the wrongs of the past by helping people in the present, it’s a misappropriation of energy.They can’t right those wrong, and it’s just another way of making you responsible for other people’s behaviour. Instead, make the past right with you by acknowledging it and its impact on you, writing Unsent Letters, forgiving you, addressing your habits and distancing you from it instead of repeating it.

4. If you’re finding that you’re helping variations of the same people on repeat, this is a code red alert. Do the investigations to find out who you’re really trying to help. Is it a parent? A sibling? An ex? Or is it even about making it up to you for something from your past?

5. Dial it down. You give too much, so you need to cut it down to at least half. Start by cutting down your helping and giving activity by a third, and then reduce more and more each week until you’re doing a fraction of what you used to do.

6. Make a list of all of your helping behaviour. Identify the ones where you end up feeling disrespected, unloved, unappreciated, uncared for or even abused. These are all code reds, and you need to look at the cues and triggers for why you respond with these specific helping behaviours. Work on the beliefs attached to them and ultimately replace these habits with healthier ones.

7. Allow others to help. Practice stepping back and leaving others to fend for themselves or to step up. Don’t be surprised if some people have you pigeon-holed as the go-to helper but don’t fear saying no.

8. Identify other roles in your life. Work out your needs, expectations, wishes and values so that you have a whole you to focus on. There is more to you than helping.

We are moving to a new site! Set up your new login by 30th April