7 Practical Ways To Help Yourself In Order To Help Others
Inspired be a brief interaction with someone on Instagram recently, I realized talking about when and if to draw boundaries to help people or be there for them is necessary. Most of today have attended at least one training to assist us in breaking through our challenges, read at least one self help book, and have subscribed or followed at least one page on Social Media that shares quotes or techniques to help us improve our lives. Most of us also have that one family member or a friend, who either down right refuses to listen to you, forget taking your advice, put may end up doing exactly the opposite of what you intended for them, making you question yourself if what you did was wrong or right.
Probably the only mistake that we make here is that we assume the speed at which a person should heal or overcome their challenge or trauma according to our own journey, or what we feel is right. In our own need to see them free of suffering, most of us forget to give the other person space. Many a times we just jump to the part where we want to fix, instruct, or heal the person, talk about ourselves, and reject the other person’s pain. But the truth is, most of us are just looking for a person who will sit with us, and just BE.
Today most of us have forgotten or opt not to be compassionate enough to just hear someone out. Its better to just dish out philosophy, and run away to save our energies right before emotions make us uncomfortable. Of course, being available 24/7 is being unrealistic and absurd because as a human being, you will eventually run dry of energy, especially when you are having a low day, are tired, or sick.
But, if you are running away at the smallest sign of emotion, and if any form of emotional ventilation is making you feel uncomfortable, then there might be a deeper underlying issue that you need to work through within yourself. In short, you will not be able to show compassion for others, or be of professional or personal service, until you are not able to do it for yourself.
Classic example of this is, finding yourself interrupt the other person while they are trying to share something; your conversations and examples are of your own journey and your own emotions; dis regarding emotions so much that you feel sick in the stomach just at the thought of it; or just feeling very unsettled when a slightly deep or a serious topic arises.
Below are 7 ways one can help themselves connect more deeply and authentically with others, while also respecting each other’s space.
BE MINDFUL OF YOUR OWN SELF
The only way you can become receptive to someone else’s emotions or even their presence, by being receptive to your own first. You need to ask yourself what goes on inside of you, or what kind of reactions or responses are being triggered in these situations. Take a deep breath, and ask yourself, ”How does this person’s behavior make me feel?” You may also feel a somatic charge somewhere in the body- i.e some sensation, aches or pains, feeling nauseous etc- be with it, and don’t try to resist it or put it down. Just doing this will make you a lot more mindful about your own self, helping you connect with your emotions first, before you help someone else connect with theirs.
BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF
Be honest with your emotions, whether you are a male or a female. It is ABSOLUTELY NORMAL to feel sad, upset, lonely, anger These are human emotions that you cannot suppress and disregard by pushing positivity down your or someone else’s throat, even though its our ultimate goal. Going through your emotions first, and encouraging the other person to also do the same is a more healthier approach.
One of the main reasons we are unable to not just be there for ourselves or others is because we have not been encouraged to release pent up emotions authentically. This is more common among men, since society has never encouraged them to accept their sensitive side, and in most cases. Completely disregarding them terming it as not being man enough.
BE OPEN TO CATHARSIS
Finding healthy outlets to express yourself through dance, art, journalling, gardening etc is a good way to start bringing up and releasing the stored energy. This will help you start acknowledging your emotions, bringing them up, eventually leading you to having a good cry, which is absolutely necessary. When we have a need to help others at a drop of a hat to calm our own internal discomfort, we are not really being compassionate- but only using others as a way to feel better about ourselves. Your own safe catharsis is important, helping you come from a space of calmness and compassion in order for you to do the same for others.
LISTEN MORE TALK LESS
This is a problem most of us have, and we end up doing it unintentionally sometimes. If you have an immense need to comment on, or advice someone for the smallest of things, take a step back, grab a pen and paper and note down the following, ”How do I feel when I don’t respond or talk so much? Do I feel unseen, ignored or in secured about my own self? Am I not good enough? Why do I feel uncomfortable if someone talks more than me? Do I have a need to be externally validated by someone else in order to be seen and heard?” Once you answer all of these questions, you will then be ready to genuinely hear someone else out, actively.
Active listening involves making eye contact, letting others speak uninterrupted, indicating that you understand what the person is saying, and listening to them without forming responses or judgments in your mind, which is actually very tempting to do, even if you are a professional. Consider listening wholeheartedly to what a person says. If thoughts come into your mind, gently refocus your mind on what the person is saying. Then, after the person has stopped talking, give yourself a few seconds to gather your thoughts and theirs, and then respond.
Giving someone else the space to be is being compassionate towards them, coming from a space of love and understanding. This not only makes you feel good about yourself because you are adding value to someone else’s life by just being present, but it also makes the other person feel genuinely heard, loved and understood. Being compassionate does not mean that you should be a monk or a saint. It should also not be used to reduce your bad karma by getting better karmic points.
Many people who have a need to always be available or be there for someone end up being tired, cranky, overwhelmed, or otherwise incapable of just hearing some first before retorting angrily. You know what?It’s normal and 100% fine to feel that way. But make sure that you take responsibility for how you feel, and take a break to relax and rejuvenate yourself.
Being there for others does NOT mean that you have to be a pushover, doormat, or unnecessarily submissive person, and take every tantrum that is thrown from the other side. Sometimes you will have long phases of life where you are incapable of being there for others- you may either fail in conveying what you wanted to because the other person just refuses to understand, or you have reached a stage of depletion where you realize that you need to fill up your cup first before pouring out for someone else. This is also absolutely normal, and very human. At times its good to say a gentle no to others and be OK with it. If someone is becoming overly clingy or needy, be assertive, draw clear boundaries, and step away in a firm but caring manner. It is OK to be selective about who you want to be there for, especially if you are not too comfortable sharing space with them, and struggle to just be around them. There is also no need to feel guilty if you have known this person since your childhood, or is your first cousin.
With the current lifestyle, most of us don’t have the time to listen to someone at a stretch. In this case, explain to the other person that you may only be able to spare a certain amount of time for this meet up or catch up on the phone, and you could probably continue later in the week and assist them in the best way possible. Not only does this not drain you, but it also gives you time to respond to them more clearly and honestly.
Remember, you can only give someone else space if you are coming out a space of compassion to hear some out, and understand them with love. If you are doing it out of obligation, pressure, an ego need to feel superior that you have answers to all problems, or a duty, take a step back right away. By genuinely taking the time to wholeheartedly listen to your inner thoughts and feelings, you will be better equipped to show the same to others.
Being spiritual is not just about learning to love ourselves, but also about learning to give that love and compassion to other, in a gentle and down-to-earth manner. You don’t need to always give them motivational talks. You don’t always need prescribe a solution. More often than not, what people need the most is just a person who is receptive enough to simply listen to them without judgment.