Help Yourself Before Helping the World

man thinking

Do you want to help the world and make a difference?

Or do you want to help yourself first?

Wanting to help the world and make it a better place is a noble cause of course.

I have a lot of respect for all people who sincerely want to do this.

At the same time, I believe in utilitarianism and I look at helping the world from a practical perspective.

Results are more important than just your intention.

Although it is not to be ignored, it’s not the intention to improve something around you which I think is the most valuable. It is the actual results you produce which matters the most.

You will find this to be especially true if you look at it from the perspective of the people who need the help. Your intention is not of much use to them if you can’t really help them and provide something of true value in their lives.

For them, it’s about their needs, not about your intention.

With this in mind, I encourage you to think about three things that few people think about before jumping to help the world:-

1. Accept That Your Helping Power is Limited

It is your ability to actually improve something around you, to actually help, measured by nothing else but the practical positive results you can create in a given period of time.

Your helping power is a reflection of your knowledge, skills and attitudes.

When they think about their helping power, many people discover that although like all human beings they can always find ways to help, they can’t really create extraordinary results and make it happen on a large scale.

They can donate some money for a cause, do some low skilled volunteer work and that’s kind of it.

If you want to have a high impact on things in this world, realising this can be pretty frustrating.

2. Put Your Own Self-Growth First

There is a way out of this situation: in order to help the world in a big way, you need to increase your helping power. And for this, you have to improve yourself in the first place.

In other words, you need to help yourself before you help the world.

Helping yourself can mean a lot of things:

  • Saving money to get some quality education;
  • Tacking various classes and getting various degrees;
  • Going to trainings, workshops and seminars;
  • Focusing on your job and advancing as a professional;
  • Reading books and applying the knowledge in them;
  • Taking care of your health and your vitality.

All of these are ways through which you develop your knowledge, skills and attitudes. Thus, you improve your ability to help others, by turning your potential into real power.

Many of the people in my social circle are trainers and coaches. Some of them have spent years and huge sums of money to learn and to become really good in their fields.

Now when they want to help others, they do so by offering free training or coaching to various people or organisations.

Since they are outstanding trainers and coaches, the impact they have and the added value they bring in this manner is mind blowing.

3. Learn to Say NO to Helping Others

The biggest challenge is this: in order to increase your helping power, you need to initially focus more of your time, energy and money on you, and less on other people.

This means that sometimes you will have to say no to helping others, so you can grow and in the end be able to help them even better.

I find this to be really hard for many people who are so eager to help that they give most of their resources to others. They are always doing something for someone else, but not for themselves. They help all the time, but they never grow.

There is this distinction I often make called empathy vs. sympathy, which I believe to be particularly relevant here.

It’s always good to care about others and understand their feelings (empathy), but it’s not always good to actually help them (sympathy).

Counter-intuitively, if you want to make things happen on a large scale, you often need to not help others but instead focus on improve yourself instead.

I know that emotionally this can be hard, but it is a worthy thing to do. When you are properly equipped to help the world in a big way, then you will find your contribution much more meaningful.

And for good reason: you will be helping this world like no one else.

This is a guest post from Eduard Ezeanu, who is a communication coach with an attitude-based approach. He helps others to improve people skills they find relevant and get top notch results. He also writes on his blog, People Skills Decoded.

Image courtesy of Juan Guzman

Comments

  1. I believe this is an excellent maxim to follow as so many times we lend a helping hand and find that the person wants our arm as well.
    I fully agree with your statement ‘put your self growth first’. So many of us invest in things that give us a return but I believe the greatest investment you can make is in yourself.
    Once your perceived self value is high then you will be able to give someone who needs your help good value.
    Money is the lowest form of help you can give.
    Conversely giving of yourself without expecting a return is the greatest reward you can receive.

    • Hi Andre,

      I chuckled when I read that part in your comment about giving a person a hand and finding that the person wants our arm as well. Because this is a very common experience, one I am very familiar with. So people are just takers.

  2. I whole heartedly agree, if we are not in a good place ourselves, we are in no position to give anything to others. I treat several therapists and many of them use the same phrase – I can sort out everybody but myself! I usually encourage them to take a step back and figure out why this is (although that is often easier said than done)
    I like number 2, the more we grow, the more we can help.

  3. This is so true! I actually wrote an article about this topic a while back when I realized these important things. I have always loved to help people and wanted to make a positive difference in the world, but I realized that I needed to increase my helping power, in order for me to help the world in a huge way. So that’s what I did. And I continue to make an effort to learn, grow and succeed everyday – so I can help people on a large scale.

    Thanks for sharing this great article! 🙂

  4. Eduardo,
    I think pointing out the differences between empathy and sympathy are very important.
    I know from my own experience I always end up of feeling sorry for people and guilty over what I have – vs. what they lack, etc. When I feel this I have to remind myself that I can’t help everyone and that if I don’t take care of my own needs first, I’ll have very little left for anyone else.

  5. Hi Angela,

    This is one distinction I talk about a lot. Because many people find it relevant. Empathy is not the same s sympathy, and it really helps to tell them apart.

  6. Eduard,

    While taking care of ourselves is important, I think we can do both simultaneously. Helping others does not need to be big, smaller chunks, small gestures makes a big difference in our and others lives.

  7. So true! I’m all about helping others, but from experience I know that my ability to help is limited when my resources are limited. No matter how great my desire, there is only so much I can do, unless/until I’m in a better situation.

    By helping & improving ourselves we are actually making the world a better place. As we raise our own ‘energy level’, we’re helping to raise human consciousness worldwide.

    Thanks!

  8. Ed, this is one of your best articles! You are spot on, how can you help the world or other people if you yourself are down in the dumps all the time or always tired and exhausted….it’s a no win situations…unless you find the true way to help yourself helping others is almost totally out of the question…you can always start but really helping yourself first is crucial because you ultimately helping others by helping yourself first….it’s a strange cycle but one that needs careful understanding…great work!

    • Thanks Amit, I appreciate it! You know how they say to give your best work as guest posts, so..

      It is a strange cycle. It almost seems like a paradox. But if you shift your premises, it ends up making a lot of sense..

  9. Helping others can be a great way to keep that so needed focus away from yourself though. A lot of people rather look at others to make a change in how they live than at themselves as making changes in your own world can be scary and require a solid looking at yourself.
    I know, I have been one of those helpers, psychologist to boot AND it was a great way to feel good without doing the hard work on yourself.
    It was hard to face that fact, many people underestimate what it takes to really grow your own level of responsibility and courage to make changes in your life. I personally find it a rewarding BUT tough journey. xox Wilma

  10. Very nice post, Eduard. I think you’ve hit upon a very key element of helping others. Helping others is often about living your truth first, living by example, then organically taking the next step to help others. Inspired ideas. Thank you.

  11. Eduard, this is a powerful post. Your take on empathy vs. sympathy mirrors my own experiences and conclusions. As far as helping people goes, I have often used the analogy of what happens if the air masks come down in a plane during flight. A person must first get a mask on their own face before helping their children or neighbor. If we take care of ourselves, it is easy for the “helping ” to be about the other person and not about us.

    I enjoy your writing style and am happy to have discovered your blog and you!

  12. Hi Diana,

    Funny, I often use the air masks analogy as well. I had it in mind while writing this article. I guess we’re both doing a lot of traveling lately. 😉