I just can’t seem to help myself. You have an issue. How can I help? You’ve been wronged! Tell me, I can help. You need information. What information? I can get it for you. You can’t find a phone number. I saved my directories; I can find it for you. The list is endless. If I see an injustice or see someone needs help it’s like I think I need to put my Whinypaluza cape on and go help save someone. When will I learn?

I have been a social worker since I can remember. Even when I was younger. My friends would be having a fight, and I would insert myself and help them work it out. I never wanted anyone to have a conflict. I never wanted anyone to be upset. I always jumped to help whoever I could help. I always say that I was born to be a mom. Maybe it’s the mom in me, or the social worker in me, but I always want to be of assistance in any way that I can.

The good news is, I am much more tired than I was ten years ago. Ten years ago, I could go from 6 am to 10 pm no problem. Now it is currently 6:30 pm and I could probably go to bed right now. Maybe I will slow down a little. Maybe I will help a little less.

There is a family in my neighborhood who moved away. I knew this was going to be an issue because they had so many cats. I can’t even tell you how many cats they had.  I don’t know when they moved. I don’t know how many cats they had. I don’t know how many cats they took with them. I don’t know how many cats they left behind. I know there is one cat that I keep seeing. At first, I kept telling him to go home. Then my next-door neighbor told me that he didn’t have a home. Now every time I see him, I give him food. I tried to find him a home. Now my other neighbor and I are looking into taking him to a rescue. I just can’t help myself. I hope I don’t find more cats that they left behind.

If there is a conflict in our family or among our friends, I want to get right in there to help and figure out what the issue is. If someone tells me that they are having a problem with someone I want to talk it out and help them. I even tend to offer to mediate between the two people. I just can’t seem to help myself!

If there is a birthday: What present are we buying? What dessert do we need? Where are we celebrating?

If there is an event to be planned: Do we need a DJ? Food? Volunteers? Decorations? I can plan this.

A teacher needing some information – I’ll get it.

A parent trying to find another parent – I bet I have that phone number, hold on I’ll get it for you.

I found out my friend’s boyfriend was cheating on her. Of course, I had to tell her. She was so upset with me. I can’t seem to help myself. I insert myself and think I have to help.

A bunch of parents are upset about whatever the issue may be – what can I do? How can I help? I’m ready!

Lillie is weepy at the table because she is so tired and has so much homework. How can I help? I jump in to see what she’s doing and how I can help her.

Maybe this is because I’m the oldest child.

Maybe this is because I’m a mom at heart.

Maybe this is because I’m a social worker.

I’m not quite sure where this all stems from, but I know that it can be an issue. It doesn’t always work out well and I’m trying hard to learn from this.

I think it’s wonderful to want to help but it has pluses and minuses. Sometimes it works out well and I’m so happy that I helped. Sometimes it doesn’t work out so well. Sometimes I upset someone in the process when I didn’t mean to. My intentions are always good. That doesn’t mean the outcome is always good.

Do I know how to keep my mouth shut? I am working on this.

Do I think I always have to help? I am working on this.

Do I think that every animal and human being needs my assistance? I am working on this.

Do I think I need to answer the phone instead of going to sleep? I am working on this.

Do I think I need to help my children with everything? I don’t! Progress!

I am really good at making more work for myself. I am really good at putting myself in the middle. I am really good at helping. I am really good at volunteering. Maybe I can get better at boundaries for myself. Maybe once in a while I can sit on my hands or put blinders on.

How do we stop?

  • Try not to overextend yourself. Volunteer for one or two things not ten things.
  • Avoid putting yourself in the middle of things. Have the two people work it out themselves.
  • Make sure you aren’t taking care of everyone except yourself. You come first.
  • Offer support that you are comfortable with. Don’t overextend yourself.
  • Set boundaries and limits. I have two hours to give to you and then I have to get my work done.
  • Remember that it’s not your issue. You also have your own issues to deal with.
  • Don’t help everyone else and avoid helping yourself. Easier to help others. Don’t forget about yourself.
  • Have realistic expectations for yourself about how much can you actually do.
  • You can also have a wonderful husband like mine who has no problem saying no. He will say no for me any time. We need to be able to say no ourselves. He teaches me a lot. He shows me how he sets boundaries for himself and how he takes care of himself. We need people to teach us.

I hope that we will all continue to help others. However, I hope that we will take care of ourselves and learn that we don’t always have to do it all!

Laughing, Learning, Loving,

Rebecca Greene, LCSW-R