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Helping others is one of the top ways to increase your happiness and self-love.

When you spread love, you are the source of love and that feels good.

However, sometimes it’s better to stop helping others

and not give too much of yourself.

Especially, when helping others is hurting you or when we are addicted to helping.

Do you “put on your oxygen mask” before helping others? Do you feel annoyed when others don’t appreciate your help? Or even worse, do your help brings more harm than good to the other person, and you are misunderstood?

Perhaps you could review the list below before helping others so that you know when to stop helping others and when to help yourself before helping others.

When to Stop Helping Others and How to Help Without Hurting Yourself

1. Help within your means.

Helping others is a nice gesture, but if you are helping others at the expense of yourself, then you are doing yourself a disservice.

Giving more than you can isn’t selfless.

Think about it. When you give more than you can and you are burnout, who will be the one taking care of you? Yourself or other people such as your family?

Never give too much of yourself. Not taking care of your own health is irresponsible. You are creating more work for your loved ones.

If you want to give, give wisely. Make sure that your giving is sustainable. This is especially true for long-term caretakers. Taking care of a sick person drains a lot of your energy. It’s important that you take a break and recharge your energy once in a while. It’s like running a marathon. Pace yourself. Otherwise, you are just transferring the pain from one person to another person — you!

2. Help at the right time and context.

Helping people at the wrong time and the wrong context is worse than not helping them at all. You may have good intentions and have good advice for the other person. But is the person in the right state to receive your help?

For example, positive thinking is beneficial to most. But when someone is in the grip of their emotions and feeling depressed, positive thinking doesn’t serve them much. In fact, they might feel misunderstood by you.

“When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”

Eckhart Tolle, a spiritual teacher and the author of The Power of Now, knows that his books are either going to help others or be deemed as garbage. People who are ready to accept spirituality in their life would find his books meaningful. There’s no point in forcing people who aren’t ready, to listen to his teaching. They won’t get it.

Your advice might be useful to others. It might even be the truth. But if they aren’t in the right frame to receive it, why bother? They might get angry with you for giving them such advice. Or even retaliate or become defensive when their beliefs are under attack.

Instead, trust the timing of the universe. Some have to learn the lessons through their own experience. So when you are above to give advice and help others, ask yourself, “Is the other person ready to listen to what I’m going to share?”

3. How you help other matters. 

This is somewhat related to the point above. When you want to help others, you must consider the perspective of the receiver.

For example, some people believe that giving advice to others must be direct and honest. If they don’t use harsh words, others are not going to get it. This would be fine if the receiver is objective and doesn’t mind criticisms. But what if the other person is someone who takes criticisms personally. Would your advice be helpful to them?

Does the receiver benefit from what your help? 

If you genuinely want to help someone, then you have to consider if your way of helping others is effective or not. What is the use of helping others when the other party couldn’t receive help? If you know that giving someone honest advice is NOT going to help them but would hurt them instead, what’s the point of you giving that advice? For your own ego? Or to prove that you are right?

Most people don’t like to hear the truth. And what you think would help others might not be how others want to receive help. If you really want your help to benefit the other person, change the way you help someone so that they could receive it. 

Consider this: How many times have your parents, spouse, or family members tell you to do something and you listen? Most people don’t like to be told what to do. Instead of telling the other person, they are wrong, or what they should do, how about using your own story or a third-person perspective to share your advice? Allow the other person to reflect on their own life and realize that for themselves. Let them tap on their own innate knowingness.

And sometimes, it’s best to help only when asked.

4. Realize that sometimes people don’t need to be helped.

Some people feel responsible for helping others. If they are able to help others and they don’t do it, they feel a sense of guilt. This is especially true if the other party is their friend or their child. They feel a need to protect the other person from getting hurt. But the truth is sometimes, people:

  • just don’t want to be helped, or
  • don’t need to be helped.

You can’t protect another person. Whether the person wants to be helped or not, is their choice. If he or she chooses not to accept your help, there’s nothing you can do. You are just trying to control another person’s experience when you are forcing your help upon them. And you can’t.

Sometimes, it’s best for the other person to make mistakes and suffer.

This has nothing to do you with being cold or unfeeling. People learn best through making mistakes and suffering. By controlling their experience, you are not allowing them to make mistakes and learn from them.

As a tutor, I learned that even though my job is to help the students to understand the concept, sometimes the best help I could give them is not to give them any help. Sometimes, I had to let go and let my students try the questions themselves. If they get the questions correct, it builds up their confidence. If they get it wrong, at least they tried. It’s important for them to try as most of them are afraid of failing and making mistakes.

5. Examine your intention of helping.

What is your true intention of helping people? Would you still do it if it’s anonymous and people don’t know that you help? Are you doing for validation or to please others?

Sometimes, we help others to enhance our own self-image.

There’s nothing wrong with feeling happy and great when helping others. Sometimes, it could also be helpful when you are depressed to be reminded of your own self-worth. But it could be dangerous if our self-worth is dependent on helping others. What if one day, our help isn’t appreciated or we aren’t able to help, wouldn’t our self-worth diminish?

We might not even be aware that we are enhancing our self-image. We just feel like we must help others. It’s our responsibility. But what is really going on in our heads might be:

  • “If I don’t donate, people would think that I’m stingy and self-centered.”
  • “I feel somewhat superior when I’m being dependent on.”
  • “I know more and I have more than the other person.”
  • “I’m here to save the world. The world needs me.”

We are not here to save the world. And the world doesn’t our saving because it doesn’t need to be saved. The reason why we see the world or another person needs to be saved is that we see them as broken or imperfect. “Fixing others” is just one of our ways our ego gets control and enhances our self-image. It’s the most apparent in a love relationship and the parent-child relationship.

When the time is right, people will naturally see the solutions to their problems, either through reflection or resources presented to them. It need not to come from us. 

But does it mean we shouldn’t help others? No, just don’t attach our self-worth to helping others.

6. There are many ways to help others.

They are many forms of helping others. Some people feel that how could they help others when they don’t even have enough. Helping others isn’t just about giving money to the poor, giving advice to other people, or find time to do volunteer work.

Helping others could be simple acts of kindness.

For example, opening a door for someone when their hands are full. Or like helping others pick something up when they have dropped it. How about this? Next time, when you walked past a beggar or someone unfortunate asking for money, if you are not donating any money, why not just send some positive energy or prayer to that person and hope they would do well? That isn’t too much to ask. Or when your friend is in trouble and you can’t help them, why not just be empathetic and listen to them?

Never judge how others help. No matter how insignificant or small it is, it is a good intention that counts. And everyone has their own way of helping others, don’t impose your way as the only, right way. It’s also easier when you do something that you find inherently enjoyable. Rather than volunteer for something you don’t like, do something which you enjoy doing and help others at the same time. It’s a win-win.

7. Leave your expectations at the door.

Finally, do realize that sometimes when you help others, your act of kindness might not be appreciated. You might not even get a “thank you” from others. When that happens, don’t fuss about it.

Your expectation might be that the receiver should at least be grateful for your help. But why should they? You chose to help them. They might not even have asked you for help. So why are you expecting gratitude from them?

It goes back to the self-image issue again (mentioned in point #5). Our ego wants us to think that we deserve to be thanked for the things we have done. And when the receiver is grateful for our help, our ego would get inflated. If our self-image isn’t involved, then regardless of whether we receive a thank you from others or not, would it even matter?

Be like the sun.

People don’t thank the sun for providing warmth, but it does it anyway. When people aren’t appreciative of your help, help anyway. 

Featured Photo Credit: bff / eflon