How are you supposed to help other people when you’re struggling yourself?
I hear this question all the time in my work with helping professionals and moms. You’re not immune to personal and collective stress, yet somehow you need to keep showing up with a clear mind and full heart for the people you serve. You may have days when you feel overwhelmed by the world, unsure about everything, and barely making it through, but you can’t just phone it in. So when you have a big life stressor or three to deal with, what’s a caring person to do?
Well, let’s first look at the assumptions we’re starting with in asking this question. Many individuals in helping roles learned early on that their value depended on what they could do for other people. When a sense of self-worth gets attached to other people’s needs, a belief begins to develop that may remain subconscious for years, namely: “Other people can struggle, but I’m supposed to be strong.” I call this the hidden ego of helpers, this idea that we somehow should be Zen masters in all areas of life and above the pain and suffering that affects everyone else.
It’s a nice thought, aside from being an impossible ideal not fit for a complex and genuine human being. So let’s chuck that one in the recycling bin for a moment, and release any pretense about who and what you are supposed to be. When it comes to supporting other people, rather than be a not-good-enough expert, how about showing up instead as a curious student of life? If we get out of trying to be the all-knowing, we can get into being the all-learning.
There’s a lot more nuance to discuss here, which is why I did this recent podcast interview on The Integrity Challenge of Being A Person & Being A Therapist. If you’re a helping professional of any kind or an empathic person often tending to other people’s needs, it was created for you.
Thank you for all the care you offer and for just being here and human,
It takes a special kind of persistence to keep showing up when we’re knocked down so often by a world falling to pieces. We need the practice of getting re-centered more than ever, and we need each other to keep us honest in it. That’s why I believe so strongly in the model of self-healing in community and the Release & Empower Women’s Circle. In addition to our beloved Tuesday evening group, a new Thursday morning circle is forming too. Both start late September and are a quarter full as of this writing. Details here.