Without a second thought, you stop everything that you are doing, pack up your things, and head over to comfort her. The two of you talk for an hour, she is in a much better mood now. As the night progresses, you wait for Ashley to thank you for being a supportive friend, but it never comes. In fact, you don’t hear from her until her next personal dilemma two weeks later.
It’s been a long day. You had two tests, just got done with practice, and then you find out you have an assignment due tomorrow. Suddenly, you notice James walking down the hall with his head down. You are immediately concerned because James is usually the social type of guy. Being the good samaritan that you are, you go up to him and ask how things are going. James tells you that he just got one of his tests back, and it’s not good. Knowing how much James prides himself in being a good student, you are worried, and you recognize his confidence has been shattered. It’s been ten minutes and you really want to tell him that you haven’t had the easiest day either. When you finally mention this to James, he shrugs it off and continues to talk about himself.
These experiences may sound familiar, as most Gusties are sympathetic and caring individuals. We have a tendency to put others’ needs in front of our own. This becomes especially common as the semester progresses. Our work-load is growing, as is our stress level.
However, helping our friends can become problematic when we get nothing in return. Sometimes, we give too much of ourselves and it inflicts upon our own well-being. Always supporting a friend and giving up your time can lead to exhaustion and even frustration, particularly when your help goes unappreciated. We care about others, and we like it when others care about us. Receiving appreciation and recognition for helping a friend makes us feel useful, accomplished, and complete.
If you are exhausted from constantly supporting your friends, or are frustrated with not being appreciated for all that you do, who should you blame? Is it your friend’s fault, or is it your own fault that you are too nice?
To explore this issue from the latter perspective, we should ask ourselves whether there is such a thing as helping too much. If supporting your friends is gobbling up your time or causing you extra stress, then there certainly is a problem in the relationship. Another indication that you may be contributing to this dilemma is if you have trouble accepting others for who they are. We have a tendency to expect others to act like us. Newsflash: everyone is different.
We all react to things in unique ways. Not being able to recognize and accept this can cause us to feel angry when our friends don’t do what we expect them to do.
Another major factor is when we lose the ability to say “no.” Sometimes we are afraid to tell people “no.” Unfortunately, this means we may also be afraid to address our own needs, which we know can become problematic.
The other perspective focuses on your friend. Perhaps your friends are the ones to blame for not recognizing the support you give them. Disappointment in others can indicate that your friends are to blame. We are disappointed with the fact they don’t appreciate all the things that we do for them. You have done your part, why don’t they do their’s? It’s our friend’s fault that they are not grateful, not our’s. They are selfish. Right?
We experience frustration and disappointment because we are upset with our friend’s behavior. It is a common mindset when we are in the moment. When we help somebody out without recognition or appreciation, our first response is to blame them for their ignorance. That’s where we have a problem. Are we assisting a friend in need because it’s the right thing to do, or because we want the praise that goes along with it?
When we help others for the reward of praise, we experience the disappointment. When we experience disappointment, we are the ones who suffer. For this reason, being frustrated over not getting anything in return for supporting a friend is your fault. We should always be grateful for the good deeds that others do for us. We should also make an effort to thank our friends for all they do for us. But ultimately, the reason for your frustration is your inability to accept people for who they are, and your crippling expectations of how your friends should act. You should help others without expecting anything in return. If we do that, we will rarely be disappointed. You must also recognize that you may be giving too much of yourself. Sometimes enough is enough and you have to put your own needs first in order to be in a position to support your friends.
Helping others is great. Helping others while helping yourself is even greater.