When Not To Give a Helping Hand (4 Things to ask Yourself)

Helping others is good. Studies show that helping others not only benefits the person you are aiding, but also increases your own happiness. It gives you purpose, the feeling of being useful and makes you feel needed as well as accomplished. Communities such as churches, schools or neighbourhoods encourage helping others as a way to sustain the welfare of the greater good. Heck- it’s the whole purpose of a non-profit organization, a million if not billion dollar industry just built on the fact that humans should help each other. Yet even if helping others has such great consequences – sometimes we find ourselves feeling drained and used. Sometimes helping people even with the best intentions ends up hurting them, or even worse, sometimes it even enables bad behaviors on their end. How do we know when to reach out and offer help, and when should we even if asked to help say no? Here are some pointers:

 

Ask yourself:

 

1)    Will it actually help the person?
Some people ask for feedback or your point of view, then just ignore it or discredit it. At times, people don’t want to hear what you have to say but just want to their thoughts reestablished. You won’t be appreciated or acknowledged leaving you feeling drained and empty. It might actually even backfire and the person is angry at you for not agreeing with them. If people are not ready to be helped, you cannot help them.

2)    Can this person be helped?
In some situations there is nothing you can do, and people will look to you to do something. Sometimes the only help we can give is compassion and a kind ear. It is not your job to fix problems of others, but if its feasible and doable for you – you can assist people in making their lives better.

3)    How will helping this person make me feel?
Even if you can help someone, ask yourself what this will do to you. Will it make you feel used? Will it make you feel like you wasted your time? Will it overwhelm you? As long as you feel good after you have helped someone it is fine. If you perceive this will hinder you in your happiness, it is a duty of yours to say no. You are not doing anyone a favor if you resent them for helping them – least of all yourself.

4)    How much am I willing to give?
Remember to set boundaries. Some people ask for a finger and take your whole hand. Remember you are the one giving so you set the terms. I remember listening to a podcast and Oprah saying how she dealt with her family constantly wanting money from her. She sat them down one day and said each could list one thing. Only one thing they would get from her. And she would then see if it fits with her morals. If she agreed, she would give them this one thing and nothing more. That way she set a boundary. Some relatives wanted a house, others a college education. There is a limit to everything. Even for one of the most richest people on earth. It also helps people know where they stand. Help them learn how to be helped.

 

Remember – each time someone needs your help is different and what you give to some you might not want to give to others. That is fine. And at certain times you can give more and other times give less. Always check in with yourself and be mindful of how much you can give.

New Year’s Blues

Most people start off the new year with good intentions, new goals and a feeling of a fresh start (after the initial hang over that is). Time is a concept created by man to have a structure and a feeling of control (yes I just said time is a concept – I am that person and yes I am usually late to things). Hence, the feeling that there is a shift, a chance to start new is totally valid and rather a romantic concept. Technically we are ever changing, but it’s nice to have one day a year we feel in empowered to change for the better.

 

What is also normal is to hit the New Year slump. Our resolutions, even though fueled by good intentions and exciting at first, have a hard time sticking. Reason is, life usually remains the same as before we set the intention. Basically, you just gave yourself more to do. It might work in January, but as the usual routine kicks in, it begins to become harder to stick to the new resolution. Change is hard, especially when so much outside of our control. Working hours, obligations, public transport – so many things stand in our way of leading the ideal life we want. It’s easy to give into these external forces. Well to be frank – it’s easier to give in then trying to make them work for you. So we find ourselves often sooner than not giving up on our resolutions. We find ourselves demotivated, noticing that even though it’s a new year, nothing is actually any different to what it was before. A feeling of defeat and helplessness kicks in.

 

Here are some tips that might help with that:

 

  1. Learn that change doesn’t have to be constant. So what you didn’t go to the gym for one month – who says you never have to go to the gym again? Who says you have to give up on your goal now because you didn’t follow it for a bit. You can bounce back any day it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. You haven’t failed your goal, you are just trying out how to fit it into your existing life.

  2. There are many ways to achieve a goal. Want to learn a language – perhaps an online program is better suited than a in person class or joining a meet up. There is no one way fits all and there is no one way fits you. If you want to get into shape, you might enjoy various types of exercises, not just running for example. Give things a go and see what sticks.

  3. Chunk it. Ok – you want to get fit – set yourself a small/ easy goal, one you think you can achieve and one that is hard. And try out which fits. It might depend on the week, it might be too easy or too hard. But this way you are always achieving your goal, its just different variations and shapes of it.

We tend to be too hard on ourselves. Give yourself some space to make the goal fit to you, trying on other’s people’s shoes feels weird – and that’s what goals feel like too if you don’t make them yours.

You say it best, when you say nothing at all

Its not just a title to a pretty bad, slightly sexist song out of the 90s, but also a concept I have been thinking about lately. Don’t get me wrong, if you want to say something, please do. You should always always get what is off your chest and you should not stop talking till you think it is done. If you are going through a breakup you can’t get over, talk it out. So what if you annoy your friends, trust me they will go through the same thing and ask the same of you when their time comes. If there is something on your chest – if you want to tell someone how much they mean to you or want to give someone a compliment, please do talk your heart out.
Yet, in many situations in life you will be asked to listen. Be it during your education, at home with family, out with friends or in a work meeting, you will be more powerful if you rather than talking, chose to listen. As a coach, that is our main tool and I notice myself needed to do more of it in every day life when I leave my coaching hat behind. There are a couple of reasons why this will benefit you:
1) You will become a better friend/ family member/ employee. You will bascially become a super human. The power listening to someone has is incredible. If you make someone feel heard and acknowledged, your relationship will improve. At the end of the day, its all we really want – for someone to hear us. Be that person for someone and watch your bond strengthen.
2) When I said super human, I meant it. It is a super power because suddenly you will hear things you have never heard before. You will notice that people pick certain words or find themselves in patterns. For example one of my friends always repeats “As if I wasn’t capable” – or “They don’t think I am capable”. She keeps repeating that word and sometimes I am surprised at the context, where I felt it never had anything to do with her capabilities, it did. I was able to say “Amber you are so capable!” It gave me insight into what was actually bothering her. This is very helpful at work, when your boss talks about what is important to him, you can hear out the different aspects that are important between all the noise of words.
3) The current Dalai Lama said the key to happiness is compassion. I believe that listening is one key factor in compassion. Being able to hear what triggers people, what calms them, what drives them and what worries them will help you understand them and find compassion. In the end we all want the same things – we want to be seen, understood, validated and accepted. Yet due to our own personal histories these things are defined differently. Sometimes it even seems like we speak different languages (well technically we do, but thats beyond the point). If you can figure out how people tick, it can help you understand people better and find compassion. Which in the end, will make you more compassionate.
The best way to start listening is just to say less. People will tell you all kinds of things if you leave them space to speak. They will tell you more about themselves than you would ask (trust me I am a coach) and you will become a more understanding, better person if you do.

Endless Self Doubt

Sometimes I wonder if there is something existential about us having self-doubt. I rarely come across a person who experiences none of it as thought a complete lack would be suicidal. Perhaps it is. Perhaps self-doubt serves a purpose to us. A similar purpose like fear – something that holds us back from going off the rails as they say. Stops you from jumping out of a two story window. A healthy amount of self-doubt hence may just be a way to preserve your own well being. You may not win that talent contest but instead you may get booed of the stage. It seems like a logical filter in our brains – that I started to ask myself writing this if I forgot what self-doubt actually is. I googled it. The Cambridge Dictionary says:

a feeling of having no confidence in your abilities and decisions

But if you even think about people who are confident in their abilities in no matter what they do, that genuinely know they will succeed and do not do it to prove anything to anyone, let alone themselves – those are a rare bread. Come to think of it I think I have only come around such a species maybe once or twice in my life and have regarded them with bewilderment. What makes them so much stronger than me? What makes them not question themselves and know when they want something and when they don’t? How did some people learn this and so many of us – how did we not?

If you think about it, a society of self-confident people sounds like a healthy one. Imagine Barack Obama’s walking around, some of them knowing they can become presidents, some of them knowing they can’t and others knowing that even if they could, they don’t want to and being fine with it. Instead, its more common that society is the cause for you doubting yourself in the first place. I read this wonderful novel by Hector Abad called “Oblivion” where he quoted his dad admiring all his efforts in writing because he said, the world would bring him down enough so his father refused to be a part of that (it’s probably best to read the book yourself to get what he actually wrote). As we all doubt ourselves, and try not to doubt ourselves at the same time – we expect others to do the same and are baffled when that is not the case. We tend to think self-doubt is a mechanism for self-protection. A way to make sure we are always in our comfort zone and don’t get hurt by any dangers. Known pain is better than unknown pain – or so they say. Just think about how much it takes for your to relax and laugh out loud – with your eyes closed. That’s how much protection we put around ourselves to sustain our current beliefs. Like the talent show I was mentioning earlier – how damaging could it be to you and your ego to find out you actually weren’t perceived as talented by others?

Self-doubt is a way of keeping us and the people around us in our safe spaces and there is nothing wrong with that. It only gets problematic when it limits us in doing what we want to do with our lives. Then its time to think – Why am I doubting myself so much? If it isn’t helping me then why is it still here? And – what can I do about it?

The first step to confidence is self-acceptance. Get to know yourself – learn to love yourself and all of your abilities as well as the stuff you can’t do. You don’t have to be everything – you just have to be you. Everything else will fall into place.

New Years Resolutions – Doomed to fail?

New Years resolutions are not only a great way for gyms to raise their membership numbers but also just in general great motivators. They give us an initiative to stop and reflect on what we want to change in our day-to-day and encourages us to sit in the driving seat of that change. By being formed, they add a direction to life, a sort of map or structure outside of the regular routine. Some can even see it as a sort of guidance to living your best life as you define it. Life can be sometimes rather volatile and seem directionless if we don’t take it into our own hands. Hence setting goals is a good way to feel in control and feel in charge of change, which in all honesty is inevitable in all lives. The good thing is also, that resolutions come from an area of positivity – aimed to add more positivity to your life. They are never self-damaging (like “I should drink more” or “Lets eat more fast food”) but always in the sense of self-care and thus should be encouraged.

Well if they are so great – then why are they so hard to stick to? We have intentions all the time that we don’t stick to – diets, goals to exercise more, eat better or sleep more – why would it be any different with New Years resolutions? Why do we expect them to work when other types of change we try to enforce doesn’t? For one, their name already limits them. They are confined around a certain time of the year. Who hasn’t gone to the gym for a month after New Years or done Dry January? It’s harder to extend the intention if its limited to a certain moment in your life – like every January.

But is that so bad? Even if we stick to something positive for a short time – it has certainly benefited our lives. Even if it was just a little bit. But often we fail to see that. We often feel rotten when we don’t stick to resolutions for a whole year. We feel guilty and bring ourselves down. We end up in a worse place then where we were at the beginning where we set our resolution. Which in turn, turns into a spiral of not setting goals in the first place and never taking initiative to improve our lives adding to a feeling of passiveness and helplessness. Here are some tips to prevent that:

1) Be kind to yourself. You tried, and that is a lot. Our society measures us on achievements but only what they define as achievements. Define it yourself. Who said that because you can barely play one song on a guitar that that is not playing the guitar? Who said that running for 20min is not jogging? Because it is. You don’t have to be perfect or hit a milestone other people hit to achieve a goal. Be kind, listen to yourself speak those 5 words in Korean you learned – stop putting yourself down.

2) Be happy with your small steps. We often start too big – like go to the gym every day, or as mentioned in the previous point, learn the guitar. Instead of setting small achievable resolutions (learn 2 songs) – we say big, vague statements that almost seem impossible to achieve in the first place. You are setting yourself up to fail. In life coaching we say “Chunk it”. Break it into little achievable items and if they are too big, make them even smaller. Once you achieve those – you can always add more and more on top while enjoying the fact that you achieved the small goal in the first place.

3) Be focused. Just because you said the goal doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. You said a goal because something inside of you wanted it. No one forced you to. They are not exams, taxes or laws. You are doing this for you. So many things in your life are determined by external things – this is a thing that came internally from you – don’t let it be less important than anything else. List all the things you have to do (iron, laundry, work, call your mother, put away the dishes etc) and then list the things you do for yourself. You can fit in a little time for you each day for what makes you happy. Even just 20min of your day is 1.4% of your day. 20min to read/ write in a journal/ blog/ sing whatever your heart desires is enough. The rest of the 98% can go to other things. Stick to what drives you.

Let me know how your resolutions go!

 

Now I’m a believer . Not a trace, of doubt in my mind.

“All of your dreams can come true – all you have to do is believe in yourself”

“If you believe in yourself anything is possible”

“Believe in yourself and you will be unstoppable”

These are just some of the quotes I scrolled across on my instagram (which is @nikafiguringitout in case you were wondering). I get the message – I should believe in myself, its not too hard to decipher. Yet what I never scroll along is – how do I start believing in myself? And – why did I stop in the first case? Clearly I am not the only one that lacks this skill, otherwise my feed would not be full of these quotes.

With anything that lacks so greatly in our minds, it can usually be brought back to childhood. In early childhood, we are told that we are not to do certain things just out of fear that we might hurt ourselves. What is mere survival turns against our belief that anything we want to do, we cannot. There’s nothing wrong with parents not wanting you to hurt yourself, for example jumping off a wall. But sometimes this fear can get extended into society norms. For example girls are told not to do certain things because its for boys (say fishing for example) and boys are told not to do certain things at it is for girls (say cooking or wearing certain clothes). What starts off as mere prevention of mortality, spills into survival inside a society and its rules. And as often as they do, rules come with limitations.

These self imposed, or society imposed limitations is what teaches us not to believe in ourselves in the first place. They also don’t stop in childhood. As we grow older we are not encouraged to start our own businesses, change the world by becoming activists, rather we are (well most of us) encouraged to fall in line with norms of the masses. Go to college, get a job, pay off your debt before you buy a house. As people struggle to even achieve this – lets be honest really tough goals – they limit themselves in believing things outside the norm are even harder. We are all installed with these fears, that it takes great courage to let go of them. They have become so reliable to us, these limitations, that they have guided us through life it is almost hard to imagine what it would actually be like if you truly believed in yourself. It takes great bravely to leave these fears behind. In all honesty, I myself am not there yet.

Let me know of your experiences!

Why not to take things personally

If you haven’t heard the phrase “Don’t take it so personal” in your life you are most likely lying or probably very forgetful. Not only is it a staple in life, to me it is a strong belief that most things in life should not be taken personally. I live my life by “Its more about them than it is about you”. Memories are highly inaccurate, perceptions are skewed towards your own experiences and expectations – its almost hard to think anything we say would have any effect or impact on others. Remember the whole “the dress is blue – no its black” fiasco? If we can’t even align on colours, why should we agree on any other kind of facts? I’ve generally believed you see what you see because of your own story and I see what I see because of my own history and teachings. If you have a problem with me, its really your problem and not mine in the first place. I just trigger something in you that you carry from your past or currently present that provides friction in your own story.

So the question remains. Why do we take things personal? Why do we have to learn that it has nothing to do with us? Why do we have this tendency to think we could be the cause of someone else’s pain? Why do we give ourselves the power?

I have two theories:

1) I only see my perspective so it has to be me.
When we are first put onto this earth we can only see what our eyes see. With time we learn depth, shadows and shades and even later after a couple years do we learn that people have another perception as well. Ever played “Peeaboo” with a kid? Surprisingly you can’t play that with a grown up because we grow capabilities that help us understand  what other people are able to see. We never do this step with our thoughts because we are never taught to. It is evolution to understand what your enemy can see and what not (comes in handy when hiding!), but its not evolution to understand “The lion doesn’t actually want to eat me, it just wants to eat anything, I just happen to be here. Its nothing personal”. Instead we just think: “The lion wants to eat me”. Not taking it personal is not a cognitive capability that is that helpful when thinking solely about survival. Yet little do we explore how much humans can make each other suffer on a day to day basis. It is helpful to learn what people might be thinking from their own personal internal perspective as a child what people can see from their own person internal perspective.

2) If its me – I can do something about it.
Another theory is the element of control. Who wants to admit they have no influence on their life and the life of others? Few people. We as humans like to believe in free will. That we have the strength to change the world, to empower, overpower and manipulate other people. We try to control our lives by controlling our weight, our careers, our schedules, our family planning or daily rituals. We try to control time by inventing clocks, the universe by creating laws of physics and even the weather where possible. If we can’t control how people think of us, if we have no impact on others what so ever – then how can I change it, it if its bad? If a teacher doesn’t like me because I remind him of a previous student he didn’t like – then I am supposed to just accept the fact that I will be treated differently – perhaps even punished and that has nothing to do with me? I can’t even change it? Feeling helpless is a terrible, terrible feeling. We try to avoid that by telling ourselves even the negative stuff has to do with us. We said something wrong, we laughed too loud and if we change that, then other people will treat us differently. I often hear women think if they lost weight, or would be prettier, the world would be kinder to them. Its a sad thought really.

I’m not saying perceptions can’t be changed.  People’s perceptions might not be fair, but they are valid. They are valid as they are the reality they perceive. You can change the way people perceive you – if they think hard workers come in at 8am, but you are someone that comes in at 10am and stays late, well then either accept that you will never be a hard worker in that person’s eyes or show them how hard you work by showing how much you delivered or cave and come in at 8am. You can alter how people see things, but you can never, never take it personally. You are not a bad worker because you don’t come in at 8am. You shouldn’t be insulted by the fact that you are not what other people expect you to be. But rather – show them that you are just as worthy if not even more worthy because you accept their reality as nothing having to do with you personally. Accept that kind of power.

Find tips on how not to take things personally from this  article from Forbes magazine and please always feel free to reach out to me about my life coaching services on the contact page or comment section below.

5 Things I learned By The Age of 30

I turned 30 last week. Unlike most people – I am proud to have turned 30. Life is short and for some people even shorter. Each step, each day has a beauty and a honor to it, its nice to have milestones like 30 to have a second to look back and reflect on things you have learned but also to look forward to many things still left to learn. I sat down and wrote for me, some of the key take aways from my first 30 years:

  1. It’s more about them than it is about you.
    People are far too much in their own heads to be thinking about you that much. How they feel towards you, how they treat you – it all has to do with them and nothing about you. You may remind them of someone or say something that triggers them, but its all out of your control and has nothing to do with the person that you are and your essence.
  2. You can dance if you want to.
    Dance whenever you get the chance because a) no one is actually watching b) you do not get enough opportunities in life to dance. Let go. Move and enjoy your movement. Don’t think about dance steps or copying someone. Let your body and your mind be free for that millisecond in your life.
  3. You are not the mistake you made.
    So you did something wrong. Its says nothing about the person that you are and your capabilities. You made pancakes – does that make you a pastry chef? No. You made a mistake – it doesn’t mean you are one. It does not define you.
  4. Go to the bathroom.
    Any time you leave a place, go to the bathroom. You won’t know when you will ever have the chance again. You might get stuck in traffic, your car might break down, the train might have delays. There is only a benefit to having an empty bladder or bowl. Treat yourself right, and look out for yourself.
  5. If the show doesn’t fit, it doesn’t fit.
    If you don’t match with someone or you don’t click – that’s fine. It’s like placing diesel in a car made for gas. It won’t work and isn’t meant to. You are not made to be with everyone and be friends with anyone and that is fine. There are plenty of cars that do take diesel. Accepting yourself will help you find your tribe.

Bonus tip: Above all – make yourself happy.
If there is one thing that will help you get through this life, and help all others around you, it is if you are happy. Take care of yourself and treat yourself to the happiest life you could imagine living. That is the biggest benefit you can do to yourself and those around you.

Eminem Was Wrong: You Better Not Lose Yourself

Don’t get me wrong – there are plenty of moments where it is good and highly enjoyable to lose yourself. For example when creating any form of art, when enjoying a good conversations with friends or watching a movie. Getting lost in the moment is about being present and aware of your surroundings.

Yet, then there is the other kind of losing yourself. The one where you lose yourself to to-do lists, tasks, a career, duties – anything that doesn’t add energy to your life but rather takes it away from you. So many things are added to our lives that we forget to take a step back and think: How am I? Do I want to be doing this? And – Do I want it to change?

Taking a step back would be beneficial – it lets you check in with yourself and how much energy you have. It could be that you are running low and you need to tank up in order to meet the duties of every day life. And on another note – do you really want your life to be governed by external things? Do you really want to be an empty shell just spending your life closing items on your to do list? You can – I am not saying that is wrong, but is it really the way you want to spend your life with not even a moment dedicated to your own happiness?

There are a couple of ways of tuning into yourself and taking a step back, its best to find out which works for you:

  1. Find a routine task that you do on your own – for example shower, brushing your teeth, hey even going to the toilet. Dedicate that time to check in with how you are living your life and spending your energy. Remember not to be judgemental, just check in. You also don’t have to change anything in that moment.
  2. If you can, assign yourself “me time” just like any other task on your to do list. This could be yoga, meditation, reading, going for a walk, whatever it is make it just as important as any other task.
  3. Write in a journal. It doesn’t have to be a novel, just at the beginning of your day or end of the day whenever you feel you can make the time, jolt down how your day was and how you are feeling. It can be a sentence, it can be 500 pages, you do you.

The issue with losing yourself is that often you don’t even realize you have. So its best to be proactive about it. Everything in your life is better when you are more of yourself. The more we are ourselves the more our uniqueness can add to the quality of other people’s lives and our own. And if you don’t believe me on that, please do comment below – I am sure I can change your mind.

The Secret About Self-Care – Three Points to Follow

To some of us, self-care is new concept. Most of us were raised by parents, who were not aware of the concept themselves. And some people still feel that self-care is something fluffy, something for weak people or something for women. Self-care is something new to many of us, so its important we understand what it is, so we do it right and get the effects that self-care provides.

Self-care is about making sure that you are taken care of your needs so that you are in the best health to help others (if you chose to do so). That means mentally and physically. Does that sound like wearing a face mask to you or getting your nails done? Perhaps that’s a part of it, but that’s not the essence of it. “There is a difference between treating yourself and taking care of yourself” my friend Don. “I think that’s where people get it wrong”. Because getting your nails done, although it might feel nice, will not make sure that you are mentally and physically healthy. So what does?

One: Exercise. Which is probably what feels like to some people as the opposite of a message or getting pampered but it is not. Your body is meant to move. Its here to get you through life, from point A to point B. Exercise for the love of your body. Because your body deserves your love for all it does for you. Do an exercise that you enjoy and see how you feel – you will feel better than you ever did getting your hair done. It can be a walk, it can be yoga, it can be as fast and as slow as you want it. As long as you move.

Two: Therapy. To be in the best inner state you can be, talk to someone. You don’t have to have a trauma, a mental illness or even go to a therapist. Find someone you can talk to that gives you the feeling of being understood and helps you see things in your life clearly. Someone that gives you a moments pause in this ever evolving life. This is such a vital part of self-care. Its caring for your inner health. It’s taking a step back out of your regular life to tune into how you feel and addressing any worries and concerns that may be lingering and prohibiting happiness day to day.

Three: Isolation. Spend time just with yourself to tune into yourself. To find out how you are feeling, what you want, you need to check in with yourself. You can do it while exercising, you can do it while writing in your journal, you can do it getting your nails done. Just make sure you do it. People often forget about this part of self-care. The focus on the care but not on the self. And guess what – its kind of a really important part of it. Don’t be scared to spend time on your own. Its a thing that takes training and you can start with just 10 minutes. Make sure you do it with awareness, put your phone away and try to just ask yourself: What do I need? You may be surprised what you come up with.

If you are doing one of the above but not the others, you will feel unbalanced. If you are always isolating yourself, you will feel almost depressed and cut off. If you focus only on exercise, you will not feel emotionally ok. Try to find a good mixture of the three, yet if you end up doing one more than others that is more than fine. Its about the balance.

At this point, self-care sounds like a lot of work. Yet its more of a shift of focus rather than additional tasks. When done, self-care doesn’t seem like a task or draining. In the end, it does point to what my friend Don was mentioning, it does end up feeling like treating yourself.

So go ahead. Treat yourself.

 

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