challenges, change

Stand Back

Hands off.

Stand back.

Let things take their course.

This is hard for many of us when we are watching what could be a slow motion tragedy unfolding. It’s especially hard for helpers (see my enneagram for more). I want to help. I want to fix. I want to make it all better for the people I care about.

I have been a helper for as long as I can remember. Being a helper is alive in my profession. It’s alive in my volunteer positions. It’s key to how I shape my days. So telling me not to help is like telling me to not be myself.

I have grown to understand that I have to fill my own cup first. This was a big step for me. I can’t help others if I am empty myself. But this is different…In the past few years, I’ve heard the cries of friends telling me that sometimes doing for others really isn’t a help. It robs them of the chance to gain their own power, self-esteem, self-worth. Still, I had a hard time stepping away when people asked for my help. Heck, I even offered help when it wasn’t even asked for.

Push finally came to shove in a situation and I had to step back. The bridge to help was too wide to cross, so I somehow let it go. I worked through the guilt. The shame. The pain. And just let others take the reins of their troubles and their successes.

This enabling isn’t always an easy pattern to break, especially in the beginning. There is time and energy to redirect. All the feelings and urges have to be tamped down. It may sound a little self-serving to say it hurts not to help, but it’s true.

It has taken time. What has surprised me is hearing from loved ones that they don’t hate me or disapprove of me standing back. That secret worry has not come to pass, at least not to my face. If there are people out there who are disappointed in me, close up, far away, or even not with us anymore, they have not shared with me.

And after some time and restraint, it has been rewarding to watch people begin to take control of their lives. Is it an immediate success? No. There are bumps and setbacks and disappointments. I can try to be there to support during these times and listen. I can think about what is truly necessary and try to provide some of that. But I really default to staying back and letting the person sort it out themselves. They are strengthening their own muscles whether they like it or not.

I find myself becoming more self-reliant and independent in the wake of these decisions. I also feel a little less me, but I am living with that. I am learning what boundaries work for me and my resources…time, emotion, financial, and more.

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