We all need to feel as though we matter. As humans, we inherit a need to feel that we have some meaning, some purpose and most of all, others around us who truly appreciate us for who we are and not just what we can do for them. Yet, all too often, we find ourselves, sitting back, alone and wondering where all of the people are who we have helped over our lifetimes.
In recent years, I have looked back at my life and recognized that the people I have done the most for or with, are no longer part of my life. It’s not because we’ve fought and parted ways but, it appears to be more the idea that they were around me for whatever purpose I served for them during times of need and once that need no longer existed or, they’d found others to fill those needs, I was no longer of any value to them. How sad is that, for both them and myself?
Was it my fault? Had I done far more than I should have done and they came to not have respect for me? Did I do too much and they felt indebted in ways that they knew that they could never pay back? Perhaps, it was more the idea that they felt somehow “less than” when they came out the other side of their problems and I reminded them of their weaker times? And, why weren’t they around to share the good times? Why were they only contacting me during the bad times but, were only too happy to be with others to celebrate the good in their lives? Had I set it up for them and made it easy for them to take from me and not give back? Had I become associated with only their problems and nothing more than that? Did I set up those dynamics where they associated me with the problem times and nothing more?
Is it their faults? Were they only ever around me for what I could do for them and once they no longer had a need, I was no longer of any use to them? Are they selfish users who took people for what they could get out of them and I was simply a sitting duck for those types of people? Were they that shallow that they could take and use me, tossing me away like a used paper towel? How could so many people be this selfish and inconsiderate, taking only what they need, when they needed it from me and not look back?
I don’t have the answers to all of these questions but, in hindsight, it’s likely been a combination of both me and them. It takes two to tango, as the saying goes. I provided the welcome mat for them to walk in on, invited them and their troubles into my world and life, treated them with total and complete empathy and concern, doing all that I could to alleviate their pain and, who could blame them for taking me up on it all? I opened the door for them to walk right in and have someone to lean on when they needed it, not expecting anything in return. That was my fault. I set up those dynamics. They took me up on it like people in trouble would naturally do and, they did it without worry or stress because I gave no indication that I expected any sort of repayment in any way. No hooks or strings attached.
Tens of thousands of dollars given out that will never be paid back, thousands of hours spent listening, thinking, researching, helping, caregiving, planning and helping later, none of these people are still in my life. They won’t ever be and frankly, I don’t want them back at this point but, I have no one to blame except myself for being in this situation in the first place.
There are a few cardinal rules in Life that we should remember if we don’t want to be in these types of situations.
Don’t Set Up Dynamics You Don’t Want To Continue
Once you set up a balance between yourself and someone else, you’ve set a pattern that will become entrenched. If people come to know you as someone who will always be there for them, they will continue expecting that from you. Once you’ve done that, it is nearly impossible to turn the tables around and start over again. They will have learned to lean on you and count on you. STOP there. You’ve established yourself as their go-to person in times of trouble and that’s exactly when and how they will come to you. If you don’t want to continue with a pattern like that, don’t start it and keep it up for long. Help but, don’t become a doormat for their problems.
Respect Yourself, Your Time, Your Energy And, They Will Too
Other people need to be taught how to treat you. If you’re leading by example by not giving them time limits, pushing aside all of your own needs or wants and being at their beckon call constantly, you are showing them that your time, your energy and you as a person have limitless boundaries, devoted solely to them and their needs. However, should you show them that you have a life too, (even if you’re going to sit and watch paint dry) and that your time and energy are respected by you and others, they will get the hint that they are getting something special from you…a favour, not a job. By not setting those boundaries, you are offering yourself up on a silver platter to be used and abused. You are essentially teaching them that you have no life beyond their needs and, heaven knows, people can tend to feel that their problems/issues are the most important thing in the world to them so, they must be to you as well since you are always there for them.
Offer Them Help…Not A Handout And Expect Something In Return
So many people in today’s world are stressed, distressed, harried and in trouble. It’s ok to help someone out but, it’s not ok to take care of their problems for them. Each and every one of us will have problems. No one is without them but, the moment that we think that we can take them all over and solve them all for others, we are not only fooling ourselves but, we are robbing people of the experience and lessons of learning to solve their own problems. If we continue to do that, they will never learn to deal with their own issues. Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he’ll eat for the rest of his life.
We wouldn’t expect our professionals or other people who solve problems to do it for free all of the time, would we? We therefore, come to respect their ability to help us because we have to pay for it in some way. The same holds true for people that we help. When something is done consistently for free, it’s no longer a helping hand and we are no longer looked upon as kind and generous to have done it. Instead, our help is looked upon as our job, not a kind-hearted favour. Ask for something in return. It may be a small thing. It may be something that they can do for you or, it might be that you will ask them to water your lawn while you’re on holidays or perhaps, they have a talent for something that can be asked for in return. You need not make it a barter system but, when you’ve helped someone out, ask them for something as a form of payment. Let them know that it’s a two-way street and that they should help you out in some way or another too or, receive some sort of payment in return as it is a favour not your job to help them. You are not responsible for everyone else and their problems. Unless of course, someone made you a god or a martyr.
When They Are Not Trying To Really Help Themselves, Back Up And Stop!
Sadly, there are far too many people in this world who expect a free ride and truly have no real intention of ever solving their problems even if you give them solutions right up front and start it for them. You may even find them angry and wonder why you’re being shunned or yelled at for offering them what you might consider extremely helpful, reasonable and great advice/solutions. There’s a reason why you’re in this mess and left befuddled. These people never actually wanted to solve their problems in the first place.
As hard as it is to believe, there are those who love to be in trouble because they love the drama and attention that it brings them. As fast as you can solve one problem for them, if they’ll let you, they’ll be off creating another one while you’re still wiping the sweat from your brow and cleaning up the shambles your own life has been left in while doing their work for them. These people are the “Drama Queens/Kings” of the world who thrive on having problems and the sympathy they draw from others. They see “SUCKER” written right across your forehead and they will stick to you like Crazy Glue has stuck them to your side. They’ve found their audience to act out their stories of pain and suffering while you lap it up and applaud them with your empathy and sympathy, blood, sweat and tears. They adore that from you and you’re giving it to them.
When They Walk From Your Life…Don’t Chase Them
Like me, you may be sitting back, thinking….”what have I done wrong? Why am I alone like this when I’ve helped so many people? I must be doing something wrong to not have people want to be around me like this. Maybe, I need to try harder?” If you are, stop right there. The truth is, you have simply allowed yourself to be abused. That’s the thing that you’ve done wrong. If those that you’ve always been there for, have walked out of your life, there’s only really 2 reasons. Firstly, they have solved their problems or, they have found someone else to solve them now that suits them better. Either way, they have shown you that you were only part of their lives to do for them and help. It was never you that they loved or cared about, in spite of their many proclamations of “you are the only person I can count on…you’re such a wonderful person and I don’t know what I’d do without you” to things like “you’re more family to me than my family and I love you!” If they ave walked from your life, they don’t truly feel those things that they’ve said. They used it all as bait to get what they wanted from you. They are not sincere and you don’t want them back in your life, unless of course, you enjoy being used and abused. Don’t go looking for them. Let them ride off into the sunset where they will likely use someone else or perhaps, many others.
What Now? I’m Alone and Lonely!
You may be so used to helping others by now that you truly feel like you’re alone and lonely when the blood sucking users have left your life or hopefully, you’ve dumped them but, the truth is, all that you’ve really lost are people who loved what you could do for them, not you. As sad as that may sound and feel, you haven’t lost anything good from your life in these people. You’ve gotten rid of the energy drainers. You may be temporarily feeling alone and lost but that’s because you have the time on your hands that you didn’t have before while helping them. You may feel alone because these types of people will constantly be around, writing or phoning you with their problems and be so invasive in your life that you were never truly alone and it can suddenly feel lonely because you were in a pattern of having someone constantly needing and wanting to be around you. You have to ask yourself if you’re truly missing that person themselves or whether you were stuck in the companionship of someone who was simply there to get what they could get from you. I can guarantee you that is more likely the latter scenario.
While no one is truly and completely “bad” and therefore, brings some sort of “good” into your life, even if it’s only in feeling that you have a purpose of some kind while taking care of their needs, all that you’ve lost is an abuser/user. You haven’t lost a friend because friends would never just take then, walk on you when you no longer served that purpose for them. All that you’ve lost is the abuse and user relationship and while you may feel empty, lost, alone and lonely for a bit, it’s also been a learning curve for you as well. You’ve learned to curb your helping habits, balance out your relationships to ones of not just giving but, also learning to ask and accepting receiving in return. You’ve also learned that your time, energy and thoughts should be divided to include helping yourself to better your own life as well as to demand respect for that and yourself.
Now is the time to use those energies, time and thought and put them to use in your own life and towards your own needs. Figure out what you would like to have happen in your own life and how to get those things. Look into things that you’d like to do and do them. When you do things that you like to do, you’ll often find others of similar interests and thinking who can often become a true friend. Do that enough time and you’ll find yourself surrounded by more people than you thought possible and with the right reasons behind them as well as the proper balance.
More than anything, as one final word of caution, never set up a friendship or relationship based on solving someone else’s problems or being a constant shoulder or ear for them. It’s ok for someone to tell you that they have a problem and you not attempt to solve it for them. If the first thing out of their mouths are problems, see that as a warning beacon that they’re going to try to sucker you into their issues and get you to help in some way. Walk away. People need other people in times of trouble no doubt and that’s what friends are for but, when your entire friendship or relationship is based on feeling sorry for them and their problems, you’re already heading down a slippery slope. If they can’t make you laugh and have fun too and only want to whine on your shoulder, you’re already setting off a dynamic that will turn into resentment on your part and them walking in the end unless you keep on giving until you’re burned out in many, if not all ways. Not worth it.
Take this for what it’s worth but, that’s the way that I’m seeing things from experiences in my little corner of life.