A Confession: Why Helping Others Seemed Like a Load of Bull

Have you ever thought that maybe you didn’t want to help people for a living?  Seriously, tell the truth. If you have had that thought, you know you’d never tell anyone, and in fact it’s pretty tough to even admit to yourself.

I felt that way for a long time.  There, I said it.

In a recent conversation with a client, he shared with me the ideal qualities of his dream job.  Although he doesn’t yet know what the job is, he made a great list of what is important to him.  As he was rattling off his list, he added, “and you know, the cliché that I want to help people.”  I couldn’t help but wonder, what did he mean by the idea that it is a cliché?

It turns out, what I’m about to say isn’t what he feels, but the discussion sparked an old memory for me, one that I had long forgotten.  I remember not so long ago being so desperate to change my career.  I was so stuck in my own head that I couldn’t even imagine a first step I could take.  Doing it alone wasn’t working, so the only thing I knew to do was to reach out to a career coach for help.  In our sessions, we often discussed the idea of “being of service” to others.  As she emphasized the importance of helping others and its impact on career satisfaction, I couldn’t help but think, “Bull$#!t.”

I wasn’t having any of it.  The last thing I wanted to do was to help anyone else. The mere thought of helping others in my job made me want to crawl under a rock to stay.

Do you ever feel that way?  It’s horrible to have to face this truth about yourself.  It’s embarrassing.  I judged myself, wondering what was wrong with me because surely I was the only person who was that selfish and self-absorbed.  But it was the truth, and I knew it.  I couldn’t fake it.  In that moment when I thought about my dream job, nowhere in the description was “to help others.”  I really didn’t want to have anything to do with other people.  I had already been doing that, and it was killing me.  I had spent my entire career devoted to helping others– helping people who didn’t seem to appreciate my care or me.  I already had that, and it wasn’t working, so why would I think that it could lead to career happiness now?  I even used to point out that I would have rather worked with lab rats all day than to help people.  And I don’t like rodents.

If you secretly feel this way too, I have good news.

It’s not you.

It wasn’t me either.  It was how I felt at the time, but it wasn’t who I was.  I was in so much pain, that the thought of helping the very people whom I perceived to be the cause of my pain was too much for me to handle.  If we put too much of our energy and efforts into helping others without taking care of our own needs, we can’t sustain it.  It’s very noble of us, but at some point, we will crumble.

Luckily, I’ve worked really hard to make my life very different now.  I feel happy, and I love what I do.  And guess what inspires me now?  Helping others!  It works because I’ve found the thing that I’m passionate about.  I have found a way to nurture my own happiness while being of service to others.  The two go hand in hand now.  Nothing makes me more satisfied than helping someone dig themselves out of the same hole I found myself in, after years of being trapped in dentistry.  And so I feel a huge sense of relief.  Of course I’m relieved that after 13 years of searching for my ideal career, I have found happiness and freedom in doing something I love. But I’m also relieved to know that it was okay not to want to help anyone else when I was in pain.  I’m relieved to know that feeling a certain way at a specific time in my life does not define who I am.

If you’ve decided you don’t want to help anyone right now either, that’s okay.  There’s nothing wrong with you or that idea.  Don’t worry about it.  Take the time you need to work on being of service to yourself, and you just might find the rest will follow.



9 thoughts on “A Confession: Why Helping Others Seemed Like a Load of Bull

  1. As a social worker I get sick of helping sometimes..I do enjoy the therapy side and the teaching side though

    1. I think it’s pretty natural to get sick of it sometimes because it can take so much of our own energy. I know you got into dentistry to help people, and clearly it’s the same with social work too. Just another reminder to take care of ourselves too. Great to hear from you, Donna!

  2. I get it, when I was doing selling hearing aids there were times I never wanted to see another hearing impaired person in my life! Now in my job doing wax removal I’m helping 16-18 people a week hear better every week and it’s great!

    1. Fraggs, I’m so glad you’re enjoying the new role much better. Do you think part of our own enjoyment of our work has to do with how positive or negative the experiences are for our clients and ourselves? I bet your hearing impaired patients were a little less thrilled with your work than the wax removals?? So when we are dealing with heavier things for people, it can take a bigger toll on our own well being.

      By the way, my husband had to have some wax removed last year. His hearing was totally impaired by this piece of wax, and having it removed was an amazing feeling. I promptly received a text with a photo of it! It was shocking!!

      1. Yes indeed, my hearing impaired patients wanted a miracle I couldn’t provide, only improvement, it’s hard managing people’s expectations especially when they are paying quite a lot of money to get help. NHS patients don’t expect miracles of course, but also don’t like the results, so no, they were rarely thrilled. My boss however, manages her clients beautifully and they are all thrilled with what she sells them, so the other part of it is that I wasn’t very good at it!! I’m great at wax removal 😊 let me know if you want any more photos 😂😂

  3. Thank you, Laura, for this insight! I had never thought of it this way before and figured when I felt this way it meant that I needed to do MORE to counteract the way I felt. I was exhausted and fed up all the time!

    1. That’s so true, Heather! I hadn’t thought about that, but we do end up feeling like we aren’t enough, so we push harder. That never really seems to help, does it?

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