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By MCHH Therapist Erica Schmitz MS, LPC

Naturally, we have an innate need to feel like we belong to social groups. There is a common misconception that we can achieve this goal only by being helpful, being likable, and being selfless to others. 

But what happens when we start to view “being helpful” as overextending ourselves?  Or “being liked” as ignoring our true beliefs and values about an opposing situation? Or “being selfless” as draining our battery so others can feel charged? Once we start to look at these aspects in different ways, we may start to rethink how we deserve to feel in our interpersonal relationships. We may start to understand what our “yes’s” for others are really doing to ourselves over time. 

Imagine your coworker comes up to you before you leave for work and asks if you have a spare dollar. You know that you do, in fact, have four quarters in your pocket that you could give them. What do you do? 

Most people, wanting to help their coworker, would give them all four quarters, feeling proud that they did something to help someone else – as they should!

But what happens when you remember that you need two of those quarters to get on the bus and go home later? Would you struggle to withhold the change you need, knowing your coworker really needs the full dollar?

Think of these quarters as your personal energy, time, work, and effort. Can you “afford” to give all that you have, all the time? Regardless of who you are, the answer is no. Whether you are someone who works 60 hours per week versus 10, or someone who naturally has excessive energy throughout the day versus someone who needs coffee to function, you simply cannot always afford to give all you have, all the time. The energy, time, work, and effort that you have needs to be budgeted, just like money. By spending your whole budget on someone else, you will eventually have nothing left for yourself. 

As your earnings diminish, you feel drained, and it is very possible that bitterness can build. You start to wonder things like, “When is someone else going to help me like I help them?” While that is a valid feeling, the only way to change this feeling is to make changes on ourselves. It is important to save up because when others really need our help, we will happily help them knowing we can afford to. 

As they say: you can’t fill up someone else’s cup if yours is empty!

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