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When Help is Not Helpful

One of my friends was diagnosed with cancer last summer. 

When her friends found out they rallied.  They dropped off meals, sent flowers, and visited.  It was lovely.  Their support was helpful, until it wasn’t. 

The meals kept coming before yesterday’s were eaten.  Flower vases covered every available horizontal surface.  It was hard for my friend to rest with all the calls and visits.

As helpers, we really mean well.  Our hearts are in the right place, but then the balance can tip and help becomes a burden.

I was talking to another friend yesterday about how hard it is to be a parent. Specifically, how hard it is to not constantly protect and shield her child from challenges.

In full disclosure, her child is a strapping 6 foot/190 pound, 20-year-old man. Still, the feeling to help ease his journey through life never goes away.

My friend must hold her help in check because she knows he needs to develop life skills so he can thrive independently.  Her ability to let go is the help he needs to become successful in the long run.

People pleasers are a sensitive, empathic lot.  We feel everything for others and desperately want to help.  It feeds something in our souls.  And because we get such a charge from helping, we can forget that helping should be about the other person’s needs, not about ours.

I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase - when you assume you make an ‘ass’ out of ‘u’ and ‘me’

When the desire to help someone overwhelms us, we can’t assume what the other person needs.  We must check-in and verify the best course of action for them.  We do this by asking instead of telling.

Assume                               vs.                        Offer                                                  

Let me help.                                                    How can I help you?

You need my help.                                         What do you need?

I want to help.                                                 What can I do to support you?

Asking a simple question is powerful.  It gets to the root of the problem.  It communicates help is available.  It gives agency to the person we want to help. Next time you want to come to the rescue, make sure your help is really required.

Sometimes, not helping is even more helpful.  It’s important for us helpers to remember that.

How can you offer your help instead of assuming it’s needed?

For more tips and tricks to Create Healthy Boundaries and Say NO With Confidence, download my free People Pleaser's Toolkit and begin practicing today.  

If you have questions about how Thoughtfully Selfish Coaching works, visit or if you are ready to talk 1:1 click here to schedule a 30-minute discovery chat with me.