The below post was written by Dan Coughlin, an executive coach, management consultant, seminar leader, and keynote speaker.
Author’s Note: This article is dedicated to people around the world who are willing to help other people, but who are not as willing to let other people help them.
All my life I’ve interacted with Helpers.
Helpers are those people who go out of their way to help other people achieve what they want to achieve. Helpers provide help by listening to other people share their concerns, frustrations, anger, hopes, and dreams. Helpers help by offering suggestions, and providing encouragement and sound advice. Helpers help by jumping in and getting actively involved in working shoulder-to-shoulder with other people. Helpers help by providing people with assistance in the form of introductions to other people. Helpers help by providing people with a loan to get started.
When I was growing up I interacted with Helpers who were family members, teachers, coaches, Cub Scout leaders, adults in my neighborhood, and friends of mine. As an adult, when I was a high school teacher I saw many, many Helpers in action. They were my fellow teachers and administrators. These were people who dedicated the vast majority of their lives to helping other people. Over the past 20 years I’ve served as an Executive Coach for more than 250 executives and managers in businesses and not-for-profit organizations. The vast majority of these people are Helpers. They work long and hard to help other people achieve their desired outcomes. As a community volunteer, I’ve seen incredible adult, young adult, and teenage volunteers who were amazing Helpers for other people. They gave freely of their time, talent, and energy.
Helpers Make a Huge Difference
It’s been my observations that Helpers make a huge difference in the world. They help to make individuals, families, communities, organizations, and societies better. They are critically important to many different types of successes.
Oftentimes when a person looks back on his or her life, he or she will recall a Helper who made an enormously positive difference on the road to him or her achieving something special. The person admires and appreciates the Helper in many different ways.
The Big Problem Many Helpers Face
On the road to helping so many other people, Helpers often develop one major problem. They stop allowing other people to help them. Helpers develop a very high degree of self-esteem based on helping other people. They get their sense of self-worth from helping others. That’s not the problem.
The problem is they often start to feel that their sense of self-esteem will go down if they let other people help them. They build a wall of pride around the idea that they can help other people, but they don’t need help from anybody else. They believe they can go it alone and solve every problem in their life on their own. Or they develop a sense of shame if they ever ask someone else for help, as though it makes them a loser or a weak person.
This big problem is not based on gender, height, race, size, or personality. I have seen this problem in young people and old people, men and women, and in people of all sizes, personalities, and races.
You are Not Your Labels
You are not your title, your income, the size of your house, your standing in your community, your friends’ perception of you, a Magnificent Mom, a Dependable Dad, or The Friend Everyone Can Count on for Positive Energy. Those are just labels.
You are a human being. Consequently, at times you are going to get burned out, bummed out, frustrated, angry, or confused. It doesn’t matter how old you are, how big you are, or how tough you think you are. There will be times when you lose or get frustrated.
You might lose money or your job or your kids’ respect. It doesn’t matter what your title is or how much money you have or how respected you are by other people. There will be times when you need help from other people. You might be frustrated by the kids you have, or by not having kids. You might be frustrated by the job you have, or by not having a job. You might be frustrated that you are young, or you might be frustrated that you are old.
How you handle those moments will greatly affect your life. In some cases, it will determine whether you can move forward in a healthy way, or fall into a very unhealthy state of mind.
If you turn inward and isolate yourself from every other person, you can easily slide into an extremely negative emotion such as shame, jealousy, anxiety, depression, rage, hopelessness, or helplessness. If you try to always take on life by yourself, those negative emotions can become engrained within you. They can even reach a point of becoming irreversible. You might give up hope because you never let anyone truly help you.
Let Other People Help You
Please, please, please don’t try to take on life all by yourself. It is perfectly okay to turn to a person and say, “I need someone to listen to me. Do you have time today or tomorrow when I can talk with you?” If the person says no, then turn to someone else. Don’t act tough and think it’s shameful to ask for help. Turn to people who are older than you and younger than you. Turn to people with bigger titles and bigger incomes, and to people with smaller titles and smaller incomes. Turn to older people for help, and turn to younger people for help.
Stop acting like you should have all the answers, and you can’t learn from somebody else. Stop thinking like you will look better in the eyes of other people by never admitting you need help from other people. Stop feeling that it’s shameful to ever admit you need help. Please, please, please stop doing that.
Two Great Dangers Every Person Faces
I think there are two great dangers every person faces.
The first danger is to stop trying to help other people.
You have talents and passions that can make a great difference in the lives of other people. Apply those talents and passions. You can make a huge difference in your family, community, organization, and society. Be willing to listen to other people. Be willing to let them yell or cry or shake their heads in frustration. Be willing to offer a suggestion. Be willing to work with people shoulder-to-shoulder. Be willing to help.
The second danger is to stop trying to let other people help you.
You are human. You can benefit greatly and in healthy ways by letting other people listen to you, and then considering their advice. It’s great to have self-confidence and to be courageous, but it’s foolish and dangerous to take on life all by yourself.
Please, please, please avoid those two dangers.
Be willing to be a Helper and a Helpee. Both roles are important to having a healthy and meaningful life.