A 55 year old social worker complained bitterly about the way she was being exploited by nearly everyone she encountered – friends, husband, children, several people at her work place, and extended family members. She spent nearly all her time and most of the money she earned on other people. At work others dumped extra work on her because “you’re so kind!” At home her neighbours dumped their chores and stories because “you’re so helpful.” Some friends needing her advice would call her as late as midnight because “you’re always there for us.”
Many people saw are as a saint who lived entirely for other people. For herself the moment of truth came when she was hospitalised for a stress related illness followed by an extended period of convalescence. When support from family and friends was far less than she had expected, and when few of the people who came to her for help thought of visiting or calling her, she was devastated. She had to confront her own resentment and bitterness.
The illness induced crisis was to be a turning point for her. She began to ask herself insistently a question she had never asked herself: “What am I getting out of this?”
The question was one of great awareness as she began to submit to an honest examination of the way she lived, especially her helpfulness. She began to see how she was motivated by her need for people’s praise, her fear of displeasing them and her inability to say no even when that was the honest response she would have liked to give. She had believed she was this selfless giver who did everything for the love of people. Now she realized that behind it was her love for herself and what she was getting out of helping people.
What am I getting out of this? In many situations of life, this is a difficult question to ask but a necessary one if we have to be more aware of ourselves.